Fatal Plane Crash Due to Ice Buildup Solution

artbuffalocrash1beeA continental commuter plane coming in for a landing nose-dived into a house in suburban Buffalo, sparking a fiery explosion that killed 49 people aboard and a person in the house. It was the nation’s first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in 2 1/2 years. Witnesses heard the twin turboprop aircraft sputtering before it went down in light snow and fog about 5 miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

It was said that the incident happened because of significant ice buildup on the plane’s wings and windshield before the plane plunged to the ground. Preliminary information recovered from the flight’s cockpit voice and data recorders indicated that the plane underwent severe pitching and rolling motions after the landing gear was lowered and wing flaps were set for the approach.

The article was taken from CNN.com

This incident could be avoided if the plane was installed with the efficient anti-icing technique on its wings and windshields. Boeing and Airbus are already busy working with R&D of anti-icing and de-icing techniques. They have large labs which house passenger planes that are used to conduct tests for ice buildup. Conducting these tests however are very expensive and for the large lab to reach the desired conditions would take days. While these large tests will give an idea of the effect of these conditions on the overall body of the aircraft, they are not cost effective in situations where tests are desired for localized regions on the aircraft body.

Our group will help solve the issues of small scale tests. The Icing Wind Tunnel (IWT) we have built is a small scale one. The tunnel is modeled based on large scale wind tunnels. Crucial adjustments are made to the IWT, so that it can generate icing conditions similar to the conditions an aircraft experiences during flight. By acquiring the correct environmental conditions inside the tunnel, we will be able to study ice accumulation inside our IWT. The dimensions of our IWT will be 14ft length by 7.5ft width. We are using liquid nitrogen as a cooling agent which will be compressed and fed into the evaporator in order to cool the air in the tunnel. The fan will be switched on in conjunction with the refrigeration system to allow for the cool air to circulate throughout the tunnel. The entire wind tunnel will then cool to the desired temperature of around 0o F (-17o C) in 30 to 45 minutes. Once the desired temperature is reached, the water nozzle system will be switched on to add moisture to the system. The airflow will cause the moisture to buildup on the test specimen. This moisture will further turn to ice due to the cold conditions in the test section of the wid tunnel. Different techniques of anti-icing or de-icing that could be tested are thermal melting, hydrophobic liquid spraying, de-icing fluid, vibration and filtering electrical energy.

This design is cost effective, less time consuming and efficient. The design of this wind tunnel will contribute to the development of effictive anti-icing and de-icing techniques and therefore considerably reduce the number of aircraft accidents due to icing.

Special Dedication

This project is dedicated in Memory of

Elie Fonrose
21 March 1984 – 10 April 2009