- Erika Armstrong
As the first snowflakes fall, you can hear Business Aviation pilot brains in the Northern Hemisphere scrolling through their knowledge bank trying to remember all the nuances of winter weather operations. Procedures, training, clean wing, Type I-IV fluids, sequence, HOT tables, and pre-takeoff contamination checks are thoughts that roll from the back of a pilot's brain and slam to the front in a jumble as it funnels together during the first request for de/anti-ice.
Even for the pilots who regularly operate north of 37 degrees of latitude, winter operations add another layer of challenges. The airlines have it down to a science at the major airports, but for Business Aviation pilots who consistently operate in and out of different airports, often in small towns, there is a wide range of deicing abilities, experience and procedures at each FBO. To add to this wintery mix, pilots and business aircraft owner/operators and charter passengers are often shocked at the exorbitant cost of this priceless de/anti-icing commodity.
The Cost of Deice
When a simple charter flight in a Citation Sovereign from Denver to Milwaukee is hit with an additional $6,500 bill for a simple Type I deice, profits are eliminated, and pilots are questioned as to why it cost so much. When that same flight also needs a Type II holdover application and cost is closer to $8,000, pressure is put on pilots to not let it happen again. When a Gulfstream 550 has 2 inches of ice buildup and the deice cost is up to $60,000 just for Type I, and they're still not done, flights are cancelled and passenger anger abounds. Who pays for a cancelled flight like that? Hints of asking pilots to back off on deicing worms its way into conversations and safety is put on the line.
For the FBO, cost of deice equipment and maintenance is staggering. Training line service employees in this high demand, transient sector of the industry is a constant high overhead cost. Add in the new environmental restrictions, fluid recovery, cost of the fluids, keeping additional staff during snowstorms, and overall reduction of traffic through the FBO during snowstorms, and you can't always blame the FBO.
Keeping Deice Costs Down
For aircraft operators, pilots, and FBO owners, here are a few things we can all do to keep costs down.
- If in doubt, hangar. Even if there is just a hint of snow in the forecast. Hangars can be hard to find and if you do, it's not cheap, but it's better than $16k for Hot I, Cold IV at FBO in BOS on a GIV. It's hard to explain to the boss why you should hangar when the skies are clear. But, with just a little humidity and a passing snow shower, layers of ice buildup can make hangar cost look cheap compared to de-ice process.
- Warn your charter passengers – not just the pilots, but all the charter/flight schedulers too. You are offering all weather service but warn them that comes with cost. Make sure they know if they choose to fly into an area with active winter weather, there will be a tradeoff and safety is not something you negotiate. You charge, passengers pay. Before you start deicing process, just ask them what their tolerance is for deice cost. Maybe the snow will stop shortly so you just need Type I instead of two-step process. An agreed upon delay might be the answer. If you know there is snow moving into the area, call the lead passenger and let them know. Either they leave early, or they pay for deice, or wait until much later. Let them lead the choice if you can.
- Pilots, know your Operations Manual before starting deicing so you know exactly what steps you'll be taking. What are you authorized for? HOT tables are usually just for reference. You still must do a pretakeoff contamination check. Are you authorized for visual and/or tactile? If tactile, where will you do the check? How long will that take? Do you know what a non-Newtonian fluid can do?
- Have payment arranged so you don't have to go back into FBO. Once they start spraying, the timer begins. You want to be able to taxi immediately; so leave payment method and verify they’ll send receipt.
- A knowledgeable deice crew can be the key. If they've been well-trained with hands-on experience, take their advice. Trust, but verify. If they're not familiar, make sure you show them on your airplane where not to spray. Engine inlets, pitot tubes, APU air intake, etc. Show them the method for your airplane. Do you want it deiced front to back of wing, starting where? Make sure everyone knows what fluid brand, Type, mixture ratio, and time when final application was started.
If you doubt the importance of getting deiced, you can find a long list of NTSB reports/fatalities where pilots trusted that their aircraft could get airborne with a little ice. Pilots will always be faced with management who make aviation decisions but don’t know what a Type I fluid is, so the pressure will range from outright demands that de-ice costs be kept to a minimum, to subtle innuendos that make pilots feel guilty for breaking the profit margin after a hefty deice.
Jo Kremsreiter, President of AirSatOne LLC, sums up the deicing debacle with one poignant statement, "A long time ago I worked for a company that wanted to save on deicing – had a little note in the front of the ops manual warning about the cost of de-icing. Their CL604 went down as they lifted off in Birmingham England. Killed all on board."
Nothing more needs to be said.
Advanced Aircrew Academy offers and endless list of eLearning module topics for your Part 91 and/or 135 flight department. Winter Operations / Surface Contamination is just one eLearning module available for your Initial and Recurrent curriculums. You can reach us at www.aircrewacademy.com or call 843.557.1266.