I’ve been reading about the plane crash this weekend involving NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol and family. It’s a tragedy – especially since it now looks like his youngest son was killed¹
What is most puzzling to me are reports that, though the plane sat on the ground in moderate to heavy snow for an hour, it was not de-iced. I’ve been on lots of planes that were de-iced prior to takeoff. It’s a pain because you’re always delayed by it. To passengers it looks so futile. But it is crucially necessary under many circumstances.
Ice buildup on an airplane’s wing is a double barreled threat. First it increases the airplane’s weight, demanding more speed to gain sufficient lift for flight. Second, it changes the aerodynamic characteristcs of the wing, adding drag while reducing lift. All of this happened at a high altitude airport. The higher the elevation, the less dense the air, meaning less lift for the plane’s wings.
It will be a while before the NTSB releases its findings, but it’s tough not to believe icing won’t be a significant factor.
¹ – As I write this the son is officially missing.