Enhancing safety in winter operations

Take-off is a safety critical phase of flight. It is especially important to be safe during winter conditions when multiple factors can cause contamination of critical surfaces and components and affect an aircraft’s dynamics.

In 1997, eight airlines began a De-Icing / Anti-Icing Quality Control Pool (DAQCP) to standardize work and reduce duplication of audits in this vital area of ​​operations. Airlines generally have a regulatory requirement to audit outsourced functions—particularly in Europe—so sharing work and audits was a sensible option. It started with a checklist that was based on the Association of European Airlines (AEA) recommendations.

The benefits were clear, and the Pool gathered momentum. And each winter season brought new lessons and an updated checklist.

With the growth of the organization, in 2006 DAQCP started working in partnership with IATA. This grew the number of member airlines and the geography of the Pool presence.

In 2011, IATA began spearheading a project with the aim of developing global de-icing standards. Airlines, aviation authorities, fluid manufacturers, vehicle suppliers, and other relevant organizations all contributed to the work. The AEA recommendations were merged with those from the SAE International, and in 2017 SAE International Global Anti-icing and De-icing Standards were endorsed by ICAO and reflected in DAQCP checklists.

There are now some 130 members in the DAQCP performing inspections on approximately 600 companies that provide services at more than 300 airports worldwide.

All airlines in the Pool form a General Assembly. But day-to-day governance is performed by a Steering Committee of nine members that holds two meetings every year in addition to the General Assembly. At these meetings, all major events are assessed, and the checklist reviewed.

Unlike the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operators (ISAGO) and the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), DAQCP is not a certification program, so providers do not have to close findings. It is strongly encouraged, however, and there is also a competitive pressure. As a result, the majority of the findings raised by the DAQCP inspectors are being closed.

Moreover, IOSA acknowledges DAQCP membership as part of its monitoring process of service providers. Participation in the Pool is used to assess compliance with the de-icing standards in IOSA.

In addition, airlines are sent alert letters regarding any safety-critical findings. The DAQCP recognizes audits conducted by both ISAGO and IOSA and does not require auditing of the Safety Management Systems of the organizations that have been certified under either of these programs.

“Adequate aircraft treatment and post treatment checks are fundamental to safe operations in winter,” said Jessica Dawe, IATA’s Manager Ground Operations Audits & Development. “And the Pool is essential for member airlines in assurance of safety, compliance, adequacy, and standardization of winter services across their networks.”

Sustainability and geography

When it reaches its 25th anniversary, the Pool is looking ahead to further enhance winter operations. Sustainability is naturally one of the key considerations.

It’s important to note that the fluids used are not toxic and can be recycled. It is a complex task to collect excess spray as it runs off the wing, however, and there are standards that specify fluid amounts. Montreal-Trudeau International Airport and Munich are among the airports that have the facilities to capture excess fluid. This run-off is then recycled to produce more de-icing fluid, saving money and the environment.

Aside from sustainability, the Pool is looking to further its geographical reach. Though most of the world has already fully endorsed the SAE Standards, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the United States and China are still outliers. Work is ongoing to bring them into the fold.

“Most of the major airports in the world are covered by the DAQCP network,” says Dimitri RybkinQuality Manager for Alliances and Suppliers with Etihad Airways and Chair of the DAQCP. “But it’s important to cover alternate airports too. Airlines need to know they can remain safe if they divert.”

The one thing that won’t change going forward is the enormous value created by the Pool. Every duplicate audit is a waste of resources. When an airline joins the Pool, savings of up to 80% are possible. And all an airline needs to do to join the Pool is have an operating certificate and nominate inspectors with experience and de-icing knowledge to add to the auditing responsibilities.

“But this is about more than saving resources,” Dimitri sums up. “The DAQCP promotes key standards for winter operations. It is a benchmark for service providers and seen as a sign of quality. The Pool improves aviation safety.

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