De-icing Airplanes

Airplanes are machines that need special requirements to properly work. Technicians make a lot of effort in order for every single aircraft be capable of flying, in fact, all the people on board rely on them – on their work, because technicians are – besides other things – responsible for people’s lives. Unfortunately, some passengers take their responsibility for granted. Let me give you an insight on the de-icing of these giants.

First of all, I should explain when it’s necessary to de-ice an aircraft. The process depends on the temperature. Technicians pay attention when temperature below 3 degrees, nevertheless, the formation of ice has other impacts. For example, fog and even humidity can cause ice on some parts. Even a little rime can affect the wings, especially the sensors, or worse it can change a plane’s characteristics.

There are types that should be well-known – divided into 4 categories depending on the speed of increasing ice. First category (thin)– up to 0,6mm/1min, second (mild) – up to 1mm/1min, strong intensity – up to 2mm/1min, very strong – more than 2,1mm/1min. Mechanics pay attention to these stats. Then proceed according to the detection they make.

Ice is also divided into 5 groups – depending on the character of the ice created. First group is white frost – it does not endanger the flight itself, but it is the basic layer and more ice can be created because of this one. Layer are rough, made by crystals. Next one is white grainy ice – this one is created while flying, and it is not dangerous as well. Transparent ice – when it rains in the winter, drops fall on the whole plane evenly, so it does not endanger visibility, but affects the weight which could lead to a serious problem. Matt ice can be created from raindrops and crystals of ice. This material is irregular and rough, can even change the aerodynamics of the aircraft. This type is the most dangerous. We can not forget to mention the typical crystal layer, which can also be created in summer. When the plane changes its position – it ascends from warm weather to cold quickly and descends back to warm.

What do technicians do when the planes are not in flight? The best protection is the heat hangar, but not all the planes have this privilege. Planes are usually covered with tarp to maintain its sustainable status. Then, when plane is about to take off, technicians use de-icing liquid, which defrosts the ice created on aircraft completely. Unfortunately, its effectiveness lasts about 10-15 minutes. Composition of liquid depends on the temperature outside. Technicians use special liquid and dilute it with warm water. They mostly de-ice the plane twice, but the composition of the next liquid is a bit different – effectiveness is up to 45 minutes. It creates something like film on the wings, so that is creating ice on them is almost impossible.

The whole process of de-icing takes up to 7 minutes.

Deicing A320 in Croatia, source: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/QSJv0iRNvtLEBmWipum0SoGMRqE=/fit-in/1600×0/https://public-media.si-cdn.com/filer/15/8f/158fc2ce-c3ca-433b-af09-d1ca1cca9ac8/de-icing_croatia_airlines.jpg

Technicians usually need two cars, in case of bigger aircraft, then four cars are required. The consumption of liquid takes approximately 200 liters per one B737. It is obvious, they might need more depending on the size of the aircraft and the temperature. What about the price? Well, it is not the cheapest – 1 liter costs 4 Euros.

Planes need to be protected during the flight as well, but that’s not part of the technicians responsibility. Planes have many systems and their proper work secures a safe flight even in low temperatures. There is no reason to worry, pilots are responsible, cautious, and their experience is sufficient enough to manage it completely.


Cover Photo: CNN.com