Flight Attendant Narrowly Averts Disaster When De-Icing Company Fails to Clear Snow From Wings

Serial airline leaker JonNYC broke the story of the near-disaster for the February 18 Frontier Airlines Nashville – Las Vegas flight.

The aircraft had to be de-ice prior to departure. The contractor informed the crew this was completed. However a flight attendant noticed a significant amount of snow and ice on the wings, and informed the pilots, who returned to the gate. They found around a foot of snow on the wings.

Reportedly the deicing company was running out of de-icing fluid. Perhaps they were trying to conserve it to spread it out across multiple aircraft. Trego Dugan Deice’s contract has, naturally, been terminated.

Frontier Airlines confirms the incident,

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.

Perhaps it’s all of my years living in the D.C. area but since this story broke all I’ve been able to think about is Air Florida.

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida flight 90 from Washington’s National airport to Fort Lauderdale was improperly de-iced, too much time elapsed between de-icing and takeoff, and the pilots of the Boeing 737-200 pulled up behind a DC-9 hoping that plane’s exhaust would melt snow and ice on its wings.

The plane failed to gain sufficient thrust during takeoff, gained a maximum altitude of just about 350 feet, and crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. Most passengers and crew perished with the breakup of the plane’s fuselage and freezing temperatures in the Potomac River, and people in cars on the packed bridge died as well.

The day after the incident Howard Stern, then a local DC radio personality, called Air Florida from his show to ask for the price of a one way ticket from National Airport to the 14th Street Bridge.

Air Florida Boeing 737-200, Credit: Peter Duijnmayer via Wikimedia Commons

The Frontier Airlines Airbus A321 registration N710FR has continued to fly after this incident, and indeed it completed its Nashville – Las Vegas operation about four hours late. Frontier should give their cabin crew member who saved the plane and its passengers a huge reward.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  2. They should be put in jail to think airlines would put money before safety the faa should be all over this

  3. Gary,

    I was on the “Parkway” passing right by the crash site just after it happened what a mess. As for the deicing incident on Frontier I had a similar one on a flight from BOI to SEA deicing complete then a deadheading pilot heads to the cockpit telling the Captain there was still ice on the wings! There is no excuse for this, just thing how many times have planes headed down the runway not properly deiced.

  4. Awesome job to that FA. Fantastic observation!! I hope the FA receives recognition.

  5. The Air Florida accident was not due to surface ice, but rather to the failure of the crew to use engine Deirdre This resulted in probe icing giving erroneous EPR (power) indication resulting in a takeoff attempted with much reduced actual thrust.

  6. Couldn’t believe such silly reasons are a cause for huge disaster like this ! Lessons are learnt only after a mistake is done. With so advanced and improving technologies, still such incidents happen.

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