Icing Problems for Planes Over Pa. Raised Alerts

The worst icing conditions in at least 15 months hung above University Park Airport on Saturday afternoon, prompting emergency crews to go on alert three times in five hours, airport Director Bryan Rodgers said Monday.

Of six total crashes involving a PC-12/45, one has been linked to mechanical failure, according to NTSB records.

Since July, federal authorities have issued two orders for modifications to PC-12s, The Providence Journal reported Monday. One involved wiring for windshield de-icing equipment.

In 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration called for a modification to the PC-12's flight manual.

The manual should tell pilots to activate a part of the de-icing system as soon as they see ice buildup, the FAA said.

Still, Dannaker said, Pilatus models are like the Range Rovers of the sky -- and no stranger to University Park Airport.

"Sometimes you won't see any for a month, and then you'll see two or three the next month, sometimes in the same day," Dannaker said. He said one Big Ten university -- not Penn State -- uses a fleet of Pilatus planes to transport its athletes.

University Park Airport annually hosts about 68,000 landings and take-offs, about 15,000 of which are for scheduled commercial flights. The rest involve chartered aircraft, corporate and private planes and Federal Express flights. FedEx has three or four flights a day, Rodgers said.

Hubert C. "Skip" Smith, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at Penn State, said there's nothing unusually tricky about flying into the airport.

"It's a very standard approach," said Smith, also a flight instructor. "The airport has gone through many, many updates in recent years, and it's first-class as far as safety."

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