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FAA to Tighten Rules on Some Smaller Planes

November 10, 1994|DON PHILLIPS | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it will tighten procedures to be certain that planes like the one that crashed in Indiana last week avoid icing conditions in flight. The action could cause delays for regional airline passengers connecting to some major airlines this winter.

A U.S.-French team will immediately begin reviewing the twin-turboprop ATR-42's and ATR-72's certification to fly in airline service, said Anthony J. Broderick, FAA associate administrator for regulation and certification. An ATR-72 was flying as American Eagle Flight 4184 when it crashed Oct. 31, killing 68 people.

But the FAA stopped short of ordering the airplane grounded whenever icing is even predicted, as the National Transportation Safety Board asked in an emergency recommendation Monday night. Broderick said the FAA believes that its orders will have the same effect but will consult further with the safety board.

The board has not determined a cause for the crash. The plane had been holding 35 minutes in an icy cloud awaiting clearance to land in Chicago. And it exhibited the same sudden roll as those experienced in a 1987 Italian crash and a 1988 U.S. incident in which the pilots recovered. Ice was blamed for both of those incidents. Another ATR pilot in the same area on the afternoon of the Indiana crash experienced the icing phenomenon.

The ATR-42 and ATR-72, made by a French-Italian consortium, are flown mainly by regional carriers that connect with major airlines and often fly the major airline colors. They include American, Trans World, Continental and Delta airlines.

The potential for delays in widespread icing conditions is high because the planes are used extensively for connections at major aviation hubs. According to the Regional Airline Assn., ATR-42s and ATR-72s comprise about 6% of all aircraft flown in regional service. But because of their seating capacity, they account for about 15% of the regional and commuter airlines' available seats.

Broderick said the FAA will prohibit use of the autopilot in icing conditions because it can hide problems from the pilots.

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