Chapter 7 - Communications

Reference to a Service Provider, in the context of this document, implies any of the following: the Air Operator's deicing crew; a contracted service; or a Central Deicing Facility (CDF).

7.1 Communication Background

Historically, some accidents during deicing have been attributed to the lack of adequate communications. The results of poor communication have lead to the serious or fatal injury of personnel involved in the deicing operation.

Communication between the Pilot-In-Command (PIC) of the aircraft about to be deiced and the deicing service provider must be established. The communication procedures must be concise and easily understood with little chance of ambiguity. Safety during ground deicing operations requires that positive communications are the norm.

7.2 Communication Plan

A Communication Plan is an essential part of an Approved Ground Icing Program.

The following subsection details what should be addressed in the Plan.

7.2.1 Local Airport/Operator Communication Responsibilities

Prior to the annual start up of deicing operations at an airport, the various deicing operations stakeholders need to have a clearly defined set of responsibilities regarding communications at the deicing location. The plan will need to be clearly defined and understood by all of those involved.

7.2.2 Specific Communication Responsibilities

Clearly understood procedures relating to the management and transfer of communication responsibilities needs to be established, in particular, for the following:

  1. ATC manoeuvring areas;
  2. Apron Advisory, i.e. aircraft movement areas; and
  3. Deicing facility areas.

7.2.3 Establishing a Committee

each of the stakeholder organizations. This Committee should help establish the communication processes and procedures to be followed during ground icing operations. In addition, this Committee should meet regularly to discuss and resolve issues that arise during operations.

7.3 Communications Methodology

Communications between the deicing Service Provider and the Pilot-in-Command of the aircraft about to receive the deicing services must be established. Communication is typically established either through the use of a designated radio frequency or through a direct link to the aircraft through a hard-wired head set. More recently, at the larger Canadian airports, a system of Message Boards, which communicates vital information to the Pilot-in-Command, has been established.

A backup communication strategy should be established so that, in the event of a principle communications failure, safety of the operation is preserved. Backup communication may take the form of clearly understood hand signals, alternate radio communication or other methods. Emergency communication procedures should be in place and practiced at routine intervals to ensure that personnel are proficient in their implementation.

7.4 Responsibilities

7.4.1 Pilot-In-Command

The Pilot-in-Command is responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft at all times, however, during ground icing operations and during the deicing process, the Pilot-in-Command relies on clear, concise and accurate communication with numerous other people when making decisions affecting aircraft and personnel safety.

Warning: The Pilot-in-Command shall not move the aircraft in the deicing area without clear and concise communication to the effect that all equipment and personnel are clear of the aircraft and that it is safe to do so.

7.4.2 Deicing Service Provider

The deicing service provider will be required to maintain continuous communication with the Pilot-in-Command during the deicing process. Key safety information will need to be communicated to the Pilot-in-Command as discussed further in section12.6.

7.5 Standardization of Communication Procedures

Communications procedures must be standardized to the maximum extent possible. The deicing service provider personnel need to be trained to these procedures. The Air Operators need to be briefed on the procedures and need to follow the procedures. Standardized procedures reduce the possibility of operational confusion. Only through following standardized communication procedures can the safety of ground icing operations be reasonably assured.

At least the following communication information should be standardized:

  1. Pushback instructions including information about the requirement for deicing services;
  2. Routing to the deicing area;
  3. Required communications between the Pilot-in-Command and service provider;
  4. Deicing facility and ATC communication control transfer; and
  5. Communication training requirements.

7.6 Approaching the Deicing Area

7.6.1 Risks

The deicing area is often very congested with aircraft, equipment and personnel. Visibility is often very poor. The risk of having a collision between aircraft and ground equipment or personnel is high. Vigilance by everyone involved at the deicing area must be of the highest order.

7.6.2 Safety Factors

The most important safety factor for avoiding a deicing area accident, in addition to competent and well-trained personnel, is the establishment of clear and concise communications procedures. This is especially true as an aircraft approaches the deicing area. If any doubt exists regarding the safety of aircraft movement when approaching the deicing area, the Pilot-in-Command should stop the aircraft and resolve the concern.

7.7 Departing the Deicing Area

7.7.1 Procedures

The procedures used by the Service Provider for departures out of the deicing area must be made clear to the flight crews who will utilize them. Pilots of aircraft departing the area must have clear understanding of the point of departure, required ground track, visual signals (Deicing Operator hand signals or message boards, as appropriate), engine handling procedures, etc. These directions should be included in the pertinent literature and be made available to the pilots.

If in-pavement lighting and or hand signals are used, they should be standardized. Pilots need a clear indication regarding when to depart the deicing location; and, the deicing crews need to know that standard in-pavement lighting configurations and hand signals will be followed. The safety of both the Deicing Operator and the aircraft depend upon strict adherence to these procedures.

An aircraft departing the pad incorrectly could result in damage to the aircraft, damage to ground equipment, loss of separation between the aircraft and the ground crews, possible damage to other aircraft parked or manoeuvring within the pad, or grievous injury to personnel. Irrespective of the method used, there should be no confusion in the pilot's mind as to how, when or where to exit the deicing area. Inclement weather, slippery conditions and poor visibility will only worsen the situation and increase the potential for an accident.

Maintaining a direct radio communication link between the aircraft's Pilot-in-Command and the Service Provider can help to reduce the possibility of errors being made during the departure and exit from the deicing location. However, even when a pilot is talking directly to the Service Provider, if a hand signal or in-pavement guidance light or marker system is misinterpreted, an incident or accident can occur. Reliable, documented procedures and a continuous radio link between the aircraft and the Service Provider will ensure a safe and efficient departure and exit from the deicing location.

NOTE: After exiting the deicing location, the Pilot-in-Command is responsible for contacting the appropriate agency for taxi instructions, and for tracking the holdover time (HOT).

7.7.2 Responsibilities

The Service Provider will be responsible for advising the aircraft Pilot-in-Command that the aircraft is free of obstructions, that deicing equipment and personnel are safely away from the aircraft, and that the aircraft is authorized to depart the deicing area. This information is normally communicated via radio communications and may be confirmed by well-understood visual signals. However, visual communications can be difficult during conditions of low visibility or at night.

NOTE: In recent years lighted signboards have been used to communicate important safety information to the Pilot-in-Command. The procedures for the use of these boards must be well understood.

7.7.3 Notification

The departure notification to the Pilot-in-Command needs to include at least the following:

  1. Confirmation that all staff and equipment are safely away from the aircraft;
  2. The Pilot-in-Command is authorized to start the engines (if applicable); and
  3. The Pilot-in-Command should standby for a signal/clearance to depart the deicing area.

NOTE: The Pilot-in-Command will be responsible for contacting ATC on the appropriate radio frequency for taxi instructions when it is appropriate to do so.

7.8 Training of Service Provider Staff

The Deicing Service Provider will need to develop a training program that places particular emphasis on arrival and departure communications for aircraft. The training must satisfy the Air Operator's Approved Ground Icing Program. The communications training should emphasize at least the following points:

  1. Aircraft arrival & departure communication procedures;
  2. Start of deicing operations announcement;
  3. Completion of deicing/anti-icing operations announcements;
  4. Aircraft clearance procedures; and
  5. Necessary information to be communicated to the Pilot-in-Command regarding times and fluids used.

7.9 Training of Non-Service Provider Staff

7.9.1 General

Outside parties, such as snowplow operators and sweeper operators, need to clearly understand their role and responsibility as related to the control of aircraft and related co-ordination activities when deicing operations are either anticipated or are underway. The individuals involved will need to conduct themselves in accordance with all of the approved or agreed procedures related to the deicing operation.

7.9.2 Responsibilities

The Air Operator and the Service Provider are responsible for ensuring these individuals are appropriately trained and that their roles are accomplished in a safe manner.

7.10 Service Provider Management Responsibilities

The Service Provider Management is responsible for ensuring that the staff are well trained regarding ground icing operations communication procedures. Further, management will ensure that:

  1. The Air Operator's approved ground icing program is being followed;
  2. A quality assurance audit program is in place to ensure that the staff are following the appropriate communications procedures;
  3. Any changes to local procedures are relayed immediately to deicing personnel; and
  4. An effective initial and recurrent communication training program is in place and functioning effectively.

7.11 Passengers

Passengers can be the source of information regarding the ground deicing process. They may report the sighting of contamination on a wings' surface, the presence of obnoxious fumes entering the cabin as a result of discharging deicing fluids into the inlet of the cabin air conditioning system, or other concerns. The cabin safety personnel are often the first to be made aware of a passengers' concern for safety.

7.12 Flight Deck/Cabin Crew Communication

Where, before commencing take-off, a crew member of an aircraft observes that there is frost, ice or snow adhering to the wings of the aircraft, the crew member shall immediately report that observation to the pilot-in-command, and the pilot-in-command or a flight crew member designated by the pilot-in-command shall inspect the wings of the aircraft before take-off.

7.13 New Communication Technology

7.13.1 Lighted Message Boards

There have been recent developments in the use of illuminated message boards at airport deicing pads, which relay pertinent ground icing operation information to the Pilot-in-Command.

Currently, this type of deicing pad communication is present at two major airports in Canada. It is important that the Pilot-in-Command is trained and is completely familiar with the procedures to be followed when using illuminated message boards at airports so equipped.

The procedures for using this type of communication should be identified in the Air Operator's approved ground icing program.

7.14 Emergency Communication Procedures

Communication procedures which address emergencies which may arise at the deicing area need to be established. Personnel working at the deicing area shall be trained on the emergency procedures on an initial and recurrent basis. Periodic testing of personnel on the emergency procedures throughout the icing season should be conducted.

7.15 Communications Summary

The failure to communicate effectively and in a timely manner is often the root cause of many aviation accidents. The employee must:

  1. Understand the communication process for all deicing/anti-icing operations, including: before, during and after deicing/anti-icing;
  2. Report to their immediate supervisor any conditions that limit or prevent effective communication;
  3. Use established verbal and/or visual signals to direct arriving, parking and departing aircraft.

Understand the basic communication and control responsibilities of other agencies involved in the deicing process (e.g. ATS, Apron, Flight Operations).

Date modified: