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TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — Unsnarling the nation’s air traffic control system would help solve the problem of ice buildup on aircraft wings, a University of Tennessee Space Institute test pilot said Thursday.

”We need an improved air traffic control system so that delays aren’t quite as long,” Kimberlin said.

”The new computerization that is in the plan will go a long way to help that, but we also need more runways in this country. The nation’s air infrastructure needs rebuilding,” Kimberlin said.

”In addition to building bridges and railroads, there needs to be some money spent at airports — on the air infrastructure — because the number of people traveling by air has increased dramatically in the last 25 years,” he said.

A USAir commuter jet crashed March 22 in New York, killing 27 people, and investigators are looking at the possibility that new ice formed on the wings during a 30-minute runway wait after the plane had been de-iced twice.

Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of a House transportation committee, said icing was a factor in two dozen United States air crashes which took 134 lives over the past decade.

Following the March 22 crash, the Federal Aviation Administration promised to have new and effective de-icing procedures in place by next winter.

Ice can reform on the wings during a long wait between departure from the terminal and clearance for takeoff, Kimberlin said.

It is not always possible for the pilot, from the cockpit, to see the ice buildup on the wings just before takeoff, he said.

”Pilots are used to looking for in-flight ice which has a white color because it’s mixed with air, and it’s easier to see,”Kimberlin said. ”But on the ground, if it’s raining and freezing, the ice is clear and it looks like the aluminum it’s covering.”

Kimberlin said moisture will cause the de-icing solutions to wash off the wings and will start freezing again.