De-icing may have been an issue in crash

February 14, 2009 12:30:04 PM PST
The Bombardier Q-400 aircraft that crashed outside Buffalo killing 50 people had a different kind of de-icing system than larger, commercial aircraft.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The small commuter plane fell from the sky without warning. While it's still too early say what caused it, investigators are looking into something as simple as ice buildup on the wings. Pilots across the country are taking notice.

Mike Doerge is a former Continental pilot and current chief pilot for Western Airways out of Sugar Land. He showed us how a larger aircraft can de-ice in midair.

"A jet has a means of basically pushing heat thru the wing to melt the ice," said Doerge.

He compared it to what a plane similar to the one that crashed has. It's called a booting system. It works on a cycle and you can see it on the wings.

"Here's the boot switch," said Doerge, pointing to the dashboard of the plane. "What it does, it pops up a little bit. Nothing spectacular. It's just got a couple of ripples in it that it pushes the ice off."

Investigators said the crew of the doomed flight noticed significant ice buildup on the wings and windshield before the aircraft began violently pitching and rolling. Due to the darkness, Doerge says it's possible the pilots didn't see it until it was too late. Whatever happened, it was clearly catastrophic.

"Obviously they had no control of the airplane whatsoever. You don't usually see an airplane nose over and go into the ground," he said.

Doerge went on to say that during a landing where ice could be a factor, manual flight is best because the pilot can actually feel what's going on with the airplane.. It's unclear whether those on Flight 3407 were manual flying or using auto-pilot.

While there was ice buildup on the plane, the National Board of Transportation Safety is not ruling anything out just yet.

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