A Frontier A321 that already got its take-off clearance, returned to the apron, after the crew realized they had extreme snow/ice contamination on each wing!
The incident happened on the 15th of February, at around 3pm local time. But it only got public thanks to a leaked letter from the airline to the Air Safety Organization and ALPA. The airline later confirmed that the letter, and the incident, are genuine. The Frontier aircraft still had contamination on its wings, as it lined up for take off on runway 02L. It was flight F9-7011, from Nashville (KBNA) to Las Vegas (KLAS).
The flight crew had received their take-off clearance, when they realized what was happening. The leaked letter says that a cabin crew member alerted the pilots, seeing the contamination on the left wing. Other information suggests that there was a dead-heading first officer on board, who was in the cabin. That version says the captain had briefed him previously, that he would check with him before take off. And so he did. The dead-heading first officer replied that he couldn’t see the wing, because it was under snow!
Investigating The Wing Contamination
The flight crew had asked the tower if there was any traffic near them. Tower told them that there was nobody on approach or behind them on the ground. So after assessing things for three minutes, they told the tower that they needed to return to the gate. They saw that both wings had significant amounts of ice and snow. After learning about their wing contamination issue, the tower canceled their take-off clearance, and they taxied to the apron.
In their leaked letter, Frontier explained that they no longer work with the vendor responsible for their wing contamination issue. When queried later the airline released this statement:
“We can confirm this incident did occur. Safety is our foremost priority and we are very proud of our flight crew for identifying the issue and ensuring the matter was addressed before takeoff. We are no longer using the deicing company in question.”
The Vendor’s Statement
That vendor is Trego/Dugan Aviation, and they also released a statement, regarding this event:
“Safety has always been the top priority at Trego/Dugan Aviation (TDA) during its 50+ years of providing airline and aviation services. Our customers in the air and on the ground will always be our first concern.
“During the recent winter storm in February there was a breakdown in the detailed and vigorous de-icing process in Nashville. An aircraft that had remained overnight during the storm was not fully de-iced. A Safety Stop was immediately instituted by TDA at BNA with rigorous re-training. A Safety Alert combined with focused and mandatory meetings with ALL TDA stations that currently de-ice was conducted. This program was further expanded to include all TDA stations regardless of the availability of de-icing services. TDA applauds the efforts of the Frontier flight crew for detecting the issue before initiating flight.
“Nothing of this sort has happened in the past 50+ years and we have vigorously attacked the underlying circumstances to prevent anything like this in the future.”
The FAA is investigating the incident. It goes without saying that such wing contamination is utterly unacceptable. What it suggests is a severe lack of training. Tennessee is one of the areas that experienced extreme weather in the last couple of weeks. This made for some unusual conditions. But this can’t be an excuse for wing contamination at this level.
For a chilling view of just how dangerous wing contamination is, check out this recent Mentour video, below:
Spyros Georgilidakis has degrees in Business Enterprise and Management. He has 14 years of experience in the hospitality and travel industries, along with a passion for all-things-aviation and travel logistics. He is also an experienced writer and editor for on-line publications, and a licensed professional drone pilot.
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Isn’t it the pilot’s responsibility to get the wing to assure wing is clear of ice? Every flight I’ve taken where deicing was done. One of the pilot’s checks each wing before preceding to runway.
It’s not as easy as you suggest. Yes, the Captain is ultimately responsible for his aircraft, crew and passengers. However, it is assumed that properly trained and qualified personnel do their jobs per the airline’s procedures. Which in fact is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (or FAA). There clearly was a break down in the de-icing and anti-icing process here. It’s a good thing that it was caught prior to taking off. How do you know that they didn’t finally catch this anomoly? Were you on that flight at the time? I’m just curious what qualifies you to make a baseless remark like that?
Great it was caught in time. Wing ice contamination incidents always remind me of the Air Florida incident. Ice is nobody’s friend in aviation.