Safety . . . Page 3
" I wanted to say something about aircraft icing in this newsletter and I decided that what I said last year was about the best example I could manage. Please do me the favor of reading it again. Thanks, Ron Harlan"
Safety: Sometimes it’s hard to convince AL pilots that icing can be a problem. So, in our Nov 2009 Newsletter, I briefedyou on an incident involving a Cirrus SR22. The pilot and two passengers took off from BHM and were so severelyiced up by the time he was over Childersburg that he ended up using his aircraft parachute and was found soon after lodged in some trees. He and his passengers were not seriously injured but it was a serious accident without a doubt.
NASA tells us that Al has icing conditions about 20% of the time during the period of November through March. We areexposed to this hazard a lot less than our northern neighbors but NASA also says that our icing situations are morelikely to be “severe” when they happen.
Shortly after writing the November 2009 article, in early December of 2009, my crew and I, consisting of Rich Burkeand Jon Garlick experienced a first
hand encounter with in
flight icing. We were to leave Pell City to attend a SaturdaySAREX at Bessemer. We were supposed to arrive at EKY at 0800 with briefings to be held at 0900. There was a warmfront moving through the area, conditions at takeoff were forecast as IMC with conditions improving to VFR later in themorning. Since the ground level temperature was right at freezing (0 degrees C), I was very concerned about icingconditions in the clouds. In fact, I called flight service (4) times over about an hour and a half period. There wasn’tmuch flying activity in our area that early on a Saturday morning, so there were no pilot reports in our area. One pilothad reported a “trace” of ice near Montgomery at 9,000 feet. Since our flight was to be at 4,000 feet and well north of the pilot reporting, I didn’t think that this report was relevant. After waiting a while to see what was happening to thefront, the conditions at PLR started to clear and it appeared that the front was moving through on schedule. Wedeparted PLR and flew through a few scattered clouds on our way to 4,000 feet. No ice was noticed in passing throughthese clouds and we continued on to Bessemer.
Shortly before the time that ATC was to start giving me vectors to the ILS rwy 5 at EKY, we entered a bank of cloudsand were IMC. Shortly after that, a few small droplets froze on the windshield and then started a gradual accumulationon the leading edges of the aircraft. The ice we observed could be classified as a combination of rime/clear ice. TheOAT was –4 degrees C. The type is important because, as I will discuss later, there is one type of ice that is verysevere. Once the icing was observed, I took the aircraft off autopilot and hand flew the rest of the way. We flew the ILSapproach, broke out of the clouds at about 1,500 AGL and made a successful no
flaps landing. On the ground, wecould see that the ice had covered the leading edges in about ¼ to 3/8 inches of rime/clear ice. There was noaccumulation on the blades of the prop but there was some on the spinner. I didn’t notice any adverse handling of theaircraft but I didn’t do anything quick or suddenly either. We were the first aircraft to arrive at Bessemer but withinabout 20 minutes, two or three others arrived that had flown through clouds coming into EKY, and had encountered noice at all. That shows how fickle the icing situations can be and why it is so hard to forecast and even harder for a pilotto determine if it will be a hazard to his flight.
The above flight was into a slow building sort of icing and, as long as you can exit the situation in a short period of time, will rarely be fatal. There is a type that is a horse of a different color, freezing rain or FZRA on the sequencereports. This type, too, occurs most often in warm fronts and in a temperature range of 0 to –5 degrees C. Freezingrain has to have layers of air in just the right format. There must be a cold layer up high with moisture in the form of snow or sleet, an intermediate layer with above freezing temps, and a colder area below were the melted precip fromthe higher layer forms super
cooled droplets that are just waiting for a cold object (an airframe will do nicely) to spatter on and freeze into a clear layer. Even airliners with certified de
icing systems have been known to succumb to this typeof “flash freeze” situation. Maybe you have witnessed this type of icing on the ground known as an “ice storm” thatbrought down trees, power lines, and some buildings. A pilot must do everything possible to avoid flying into this typeof icing and must immediately exit the area in the event he encounters it inadvertently.
There is much more to learn on this topic, and a good place to start is to view “Weather Wise; Precipitation and Icing”on the www.asf.org web site.
Stay Safe! Ron Harlan, 118 Safety Officer
Reminder: Read the newsletter and receive a Safety Briefing Credit.Please email Ron Harlan at