Smart Training for Aircraft Icing

Robert Mauro

Ice that accumulates on aircraft before or in flight has caused several major airline accidents. Each year, many smaller aircraft are lost to icing.  To help pilots learn to make better decisions about in-flight icing, researchers at Decision Research in collaboration with human factors researchers at NASA Ames Research Center, icing experts at NASA Glenn Research Center, weather experts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Federal Aviation Administration built a series of training programs designed to educate pilots about icing.


The latest installments in this series — A Pilot’s Guide to In-Flight Icing and A Pilot’s Guide to Ground Icing ( — are multimedia web-based training programs that contains practical information for professional pilots who may encounter icing conditions during their normal operations.

These comprehensive programs presents pilots with operational information on how to avoid ice, detect ice, minimize exposure to dangerous conditions, and exit icing conditions during each phase of flight. The effects of icing on aircraft performance, control upsets (wing and tail stalls), and recovery procedures are also discussed.  These self-guided training aids contain imagery captured on NASA Icing Research flights, animation, pilot testimonials, case studies, and interactive demonstrators. In addition, interactive exercises allow the users to assess their operational understanding of key points.

Researchers at Decision Research developed an educational design for these training programs that takes advantage of developments in cognitive science, education, and multimedia technology to provide thorough training that is designed to not only convey information but help pilots to remember what they have learned and use it effectively when they need it in flight and on the ground.

Formal evaluations of these training programs have demonstrated that these programs are superior to traditional training methods.

Review of NASA Icing Training Products

  • “Any pilot could benefit from these courses, and if the FAA makes any icing course mandatory, this is the one the agency should choose.”
  • “Clearly the developers of the NASA course know a lot about teaching and effective transfer of knowledge.  They obviously recognize that each person absorbs new information from a variety of sources.  Some people learn from audio-visual content, others from reading and still others from person-to-person instruction.  The NASA course makes extensive use of all these methods, and it is thus content-rich, easy to use and a pleasurable learning experience.  The NASA course is of a far higher level of quality than the other courses….”

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