Spurred by La Guardia crash, FAA to set rules for takeoffs in icy weather

April 17, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Breaking sharply with a policy that gives broad discretion to pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration intends to establish rules on when pilots can take off in snowy and icy weather, the agency said yesterday.

The rules, which are due to take effect Oct. 1 after hearings, come in reaction to the crash of a USAir jet at La Guardia Airport during a snowstorm March 22.

Up to now, it has been solely up to pilots waiting on runways to decide whether they should return to the gates to have their planes de-iced. The limits will be set for all major airplanes based on information from manufacturers and other sources.

Pilot representatives praised the decision. Many pilots have been uncomfortable making judgment calls, feeling that it was difficult to determine when ice was building on a wing by looking through a cabin window or the cockpit.

The FAA move was announced by Anthony J. Broderick, associate administrator for regulation and certification, at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on transportation yesterday in Manhattan.

Mr. Broderick said that he did not want to take away from the authority of a pilot to decide whether to take off or not.

But, he said, the crash of the Fokker F28 jet at La Guardia, which killed 27, had made it obvious that pilots needed clearer guidelines.

"We must give them help," he said.

Mr. Broderick also conceded that the FAA's procedures for dealing with ice were not, in hindsight, what they should have been.

Investigators have not yet found a cause for the La Guardia crash, although they have said wing ice is the leading theory. After being de-iced twice, the jet sat on the runway for nearly a half-hour in temperatures of about 31 degrees in heavy snow mixed with rain.

The co-pilot, John J. Rachuba, said that he had checked at least three times from his cockpit window and had not seen ice on the wing. He said he might have looked at the wing as many as 10 times.

Fokker, in an article in the December 1989 issue of its company magazine, Wing Tips, had recommended that in conditions like those that night, planes should be de-iced after 15 minutes.

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