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Grounding of ATR Plane in Icing Conditions Urged

November 08, 1994|DON PHILLIPS | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board issued an emergency recommendation Monday night that the type of plane that crashed in northern Indiana last week, killing all 68 on board, be grounded whenever there are icing conditions, pending a special government review.

The safety board, although not prejudging the cause of the crash of American Eagle Flight 4184, said there is enough concern about the plane's characteristics when operating in icing conditions that immediate action is needed.

The plane, a twin-turbo prop ATR72-210, flew for about 35 minutes in icing conditions while holding for a landing slot at O'Hare International Airport.

The plane experienced a sudden deflection of the ailerons--flat pieces of wing that control turns--turned on its back and plunged into a soybean field.

The Federal Aviation Administration has already issued new flight standards for the ATR series of airplanes, made by a French-Italian consortium, most of which fly in the United States.

Those standards recommend against use of the autopilot in icing conditions and strict adherence to other anti-icing procedures.

The safety board, an independent agency that investigates major airline crashes and makes recommendations, said it agreed with the FAA action but added that the recommendation does not go far enough.

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The board said in a letter to the FAA that the onset of the icing problem may be rapid and it is "not certain the pilot would be able to recover" after the process starts.

The board said that the FAA should initiate a special review of the ATR's certificate to operate in this country, with detailed tests of the effects of wing ice.

In the meantime, the plane should be prohibited from flying whenever there are icing conditions or icing conditions are even predicted, the board said.

Pilots should also be given special instructions on what to do if they inadvertently enter icing conditions, the board added.

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