Cessnas remain in service as new Cape Air fleet problems continue

Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2021
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Cape Air added Tecnam P2012 Traveller airplanes to Montana routes this year. Issues with de-icing systems, although they have received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, continue to cause concerns for local airport officials. Ranger-Review file photo

The de-icing system for Cape Air’s Tecnam P2012 Traveller airplanes was recently given final approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, though local officials still have some concerns about the system. The Dawson County Airport Board has previously discussed the system and the difficulties that come with it, with the main concern being that the type of de-icing fluid used is only effective for a short amount of time while the plane is waiting to take off.

There is also an issue with the quantity of the fluid the plane can hold. If conditions require that the de-icing system be turned on shortly after take off, it’s unclear if there would be enough fluid to last the entire length of the flight.

“It’s going to be difficult,” airport manager Craig Hostetler said. “It’s a thin enough fluid that it will only last for five to seven minutes before they have to be off the ground.”

If the planes can not get off the ground in time, they will likely have to go through the de-icing process again, which could throw flights off schedule.

To compensate for the short de-icing times, Hostetler noted that Cape Air has provided two Cessna 402 airplanes, the model that has largely been replaced by the Tecnams, which he believes will be used for a majority of flights this winter.

“Their work-around is to fly the 402’s and I think they’re going to fly them considerably more than the Tecnams. Probably, the Tecnams are going to be fair-weather airplanes,” Hostetler said.

The de-icing issue has been brought to Cape Air’s attention before. In response to the board’s most recent discussion, Cape Air’s Managing Director of Marketing and Public Relations Erin Hatzell noted that the Tecnams are still fairly new planes and they are still working to address any problem they run into. Though she didn’t say if providing additional Cessnas was in response to concerns about the de-icing program, she did note that Cessnas will remain in service until more Tecnams can be recruited into the Cape Air fleet.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our crew and passengers. The Tecnam is still a new plane, and we have experienced normal growing pains that come with a new plane, which is why we continue to work hand-in-hand with our manufacturing partners to make appropriate modifications to the airplane,” Hatzell said. “We continue to support the Montana region with the 402 Cessna, which has been the backbone of our operation since 1983. The Midwest and Northeast markets operating the Tecnam are also supported with the 402 Cessna. This will be the case until we have more Tecnams in our fleet.”

Aside from the de-icing issues, Hostetler added that the Tecnam currently at the Dawson Community Airport is currently experiencing some difficulties with one of its electronic displays. It would have to be flown without instrument assistance, so it won’t be carrying passengers until the issue is fixed.

“They can start it, but right now it would definitely have to be (visual flight rules) and I would say they would have to fly it home without passengers,” Hostetler said.

The next meeting of the Dawson County Airport Board is currently scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview. com.