Page Summary

Icefalls from aircraft are relatively rare. In comparison to the number of flights in UK airspace – over 2 million a year, which is about 5,200 flights a day – an average of only 25 icefalls are reported a year. This page tells you how to report a suspected ice fall.

Main Content

Icefalls Leaflet - Version 3 - June 2007

How do icefalls happen?

Most reports come from people living under the approach paths to major airports, when ice which has formed on the fuselage breaks off as the aircraft descends into warmer air.  The accumulation of ice may be caused by atmospheric conditions, or it may occur due to a leak from a faulty seal on a hose socket used to load/unload liquid to the aircraft.  (All toilet waste is held within the aircraft and collected after landing by special vehicles during the preparation for the next flight.)

What is the CAA’s role?

The CAA has no liability for damage which may be caused to property as a result of an icefall, and a reporter should claim for repairs via his/her household or car insurance.

As the safety regulator for UK civil aviation, the CAA’s primary aim is to prevent icefalls by requiring UK aircraft operators to perform regular checks, servicing and maintenance procedures, in order that they may take corrective action as soon as a defect in an aircraft system’s sealing mechanism is found.

It is extremely rare to be able to identify an aircraft that can conclusively be shown to be the source of an icefall.  Firstly, in order to request the relevant air traffic control radar recordings from the air traffic service provider and to carry out the analysis, we must have an accurate time ±  5 minutes for when the icefall occurred.  Secondly, the analysis of the information is not easy, particularly when a number of aircraft may have been in the area at the time; aircraft speeds and altitudes, together with varying wind speed and direction, affect the possible trajectory of a falling object.  However, we do write to the operators of all the identified aircraft, whether UK or foreign operated, requesting that the technical and maintenance records are examined for a possible cause, and asking them to provide us with the results of this review.  (The UK CAA does not regulate foreign aircraft operators.)

What happens to icefall report information?

The details of each reported icefall incident are recorded on the CAA's Mandatory Occurrence Reporting system, which is the UK's national database for aviation safety records.  It contains aviation knowledge which can be studied and analysed by the CAA, and by the aviation industry in general, to assess safety implications and trends and, where possible, initiate measures to reduce risks and enhance flight safety.

Report an icefall to :

Office hours:


Safety Investigation and Data Department

01293 573218 / 573280 



Out of office hours


Duty Officer, CAA Corporate Communications Department

020 7379 7311

providing as much of the following information as possible :
accurate date and time of incident, location, colour and approximate size of ice.