Winter Aircraft Safety: Why Aircraft Deicing Is So Important

If you live in a cold climate, when you go outside during the winter months you’re likely to see a coating of frost, ice, or even snow on your car and its windshield and windows. Before you can pull out of the driveway or parking space, you take the time to clear your windows and remove any excess snow or ice from the vehicle that could cause an issue during travel. It’s a simple chore and something we all do, but for aircraft, removing ice and snow is a major safety issue that requires professional expertise.

How ice and snow affect aircraft

When ice or snow buildup on the wings and tail of an airplane it can actually alter the shape of the plane. That particular shape serves an important purpose — it allows for proper lift and flight. Extensive engineering is involved in the shape of a plane and how it affects airflow. Interrupting airflow with even the slightest change in the shape of a plane’s wings and tail can have disastrous consequences, especially during take-off. In addition, ice build-up on the nose of an aircraft can interfere with radar systems, so special attention must be paid to this area, as well.

How aircraft deicing works

A plane receives deicing services by experienced professionals at airports and FBOs like Saker GCK at the Garden City Regional Airport in Kansas, which provides both type I & IV deicing services. Deicing fluid, which is a mixture of glycol and water is heated and then sprayed on the aircraft to remove dangerous ice and snow. This particular mixture, however, only removes ice and snow and has a very limited ability to prevent new ice from forming. In this instance, anti-icing fluid, which contains a higher concentration of glycol, is applied to prevent new precipitation from freezing on the plane.

In addition to the chemical deicing process, planes are equipped with systems to prevent icing on the wings, tail, engine openings, and areas where systems such as radar are present. Using a system of piping, hot air from jet engines is pumped to the important, vulnerable areas of the plane’s surface. Simpler propeller aircraft use devices resembling balloons on the wings and tail that inflate and deflate to break up the ice.

Deicing systems are important year-round, especially when high altitudes could cause issues with ice, even in the warmest months and climates. But, chemical deicing on the ground is a must in cold climates and during wintry precipitation. Fortunately, Saker Aviation provides deicing services, as well as a warm, comfortable pilot’s lounge to relax in while you wait. Contact us for more information about all of our FBO services.

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