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Aircraft Icing Definitions

by John M. White |

As pilots we need to understand any dangers we might encounter while flying, and given the recent accident in Buffalo a renewed interest in icing has arisen.  I decided to review the FAA's definitions of icing, and would like to share this information with:

Trace Icing               This is when ice becomes perceptible, and the rate of accumulation is slightly greater than the rate of sublimation. It is not hazardous even though  deicing/anti-icing equipment is not utilized, unless encountered for an extended  period of time - over 1 hour.

Light Icing                The rate of accumulation may create a problem if flight is prolonged in this environment (over 1 hour). Occasional use of deicing/anti-icing equipment removes/prevents accumulation. It does not present a problem if the deicing/anti-icing equipment is used.

Moderate Icing        The rate of accumulation is such that even short encounters become potentially hazardous and the use of deicing/anti-icing equipment or flight diversion is necessary.

Severe                     The rate of accumulation is such that deicing/anti-icing equipment fails to reduce or control the hazard.  Immediate flight diversion is necessary.

According to the FAA these definitions have been criticized as being too vague and subjective. Click on image to enlarge

Tomorrow I will examine in more detail how pilots view icing, and how the FAR's impact operations in icing conditions.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!


In response to how he checked the weather, "I just whip out my blue card with a hole in it and read what it says: 'When color of card matches color of sky, FLY!'"

— Gordon Baxter

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