In the remaining weeks of the winter season, aircraft owners may be faced with the challenges of de-winterizing their planes. In addition, deicing is an ongoing maintenance issue during the winter months and as the season draws to a close.
Why De-icing Your Plane is Important
Keeping planes free of snow and ice accumulation in winter weather conditions is a high stakes affair. Snow and ice can significantly reduce the performance ability of a plane and can lead to extensive safety issues.
One of the main factors of flight performance is lift. Each plane’s shape is uniquely engineered to ensure that the plane achieves enough lift to make flight possible. When there is too much snow or ice on certain parts of an aircraft, the shape is distorted and lift can be adversely affected. Any plane flying under wintry weather conditions is at risk of the cumulative effects of frost, snow and ice buildup on the plane. Not only should ice be removed prior to flight, it must also be prevented from accumulating during flight.
For instance, when a plane’s engines are covered with icy buildup, the safety risks are particularly high. Some of the ice could break off, with chunks flying into the engine openings. It’s a situation that can cause major damage to the plane and even down a plane mid-flight.
This is why deicing an aircraft is crucial to the effective performance an any aircraft during the winter months. Further, maintaining a plane free of ice can be a smart way to beat the long-term effects of corrosion and tarnish on brightwork as well.
How to De-Ice Your Plane
Since the stakes are quite high when it comes to ensuring a plane stays ice-free, it’s important to be familiar with the best methods for deicing. The subject points to the substance commonly associated with deicing a plane – glycol.
Glycol is an organic compound of the alcohol family commercially significant in the polyester fabric industry and found in a number of consumer products. It’s especially usefull for its ability to break down frozen substances after it’s heated slightly.
On planes, glycol is the major ingredient in deicing fluids which consist basically of heated glycol and water. The mixture is sprayed onto the plane with pressure to remove ice and debris that would otherwise cause safety problems during flight.
Most technicians advise that all the plane’s ventilation system should be shut down during the deicing process. The fumes from the glycol mixture are quite strong, though non-toxic, and should be deflected away from the cabin at all times during the deicing process.
While deicing measures remove ice after it forms, anti-icing equipment is meant to prevent ice from building up at all. Anti-icing systems can be found on all planes certified for flying in icy conditions and may be found in other planes, albeit in a simplistic manner.
An anti-icing system usually consists of a mechanical or electrical heat source that is blown across various surfaces of a plane to keep the area’s temperature high enough to prevent ice formation.
Electrical anti-icing systems keep propellers and smaller areas ice-free through heat wires while hot air systems employ piccolo tubes which transport bleed air from the engines to ensure that ice does not collect.
Chemical anti-icing systems are much like deicing fluids. They contain chemical constituents, such as glycol, capable of lowering the freezing point of water. They also contain chemical additives that are capable of adhering to aircraft surfaces so that they stay in place even after the plan hits the runway. These are normally applied just after a deicing fluid and at the first signs of moisture during winter weather.
A Word About Frost
Frost is another huge concern for pilots and technicians alike during the winter months. Those familiar with its dangers and risks, know that extra precautions must be taken when frost accumulates.
At one point, it was perfectly acceptable to polish the frost off a plane’s surface prior to flight. However, even when frost was polished, accidents ensued and the FAA noticed. This sparked a debate about whether simply polishing was sufficient to reduce the detrimental affects to a plane’s performance when frost accumulates. According to current FAA regulations, however, merely polishing a plane may not be adequate to ensure flight safety.
Instead, all frost and other forms of ice must be completely removed prior to flight, at least for large aircraft. Smaller aircraft can be moved inside a heated hangar if deicing mechanisms are not available. Or, they may be moved into the sunlight to allow the ice to melt away prior to flight.
Dealing with Winter Weather
Winter weather is more than just ice and frost. It may also include snow, fierce winds, sleet and fog. These conditions can make flight challenging and may call for extensive safety plans and extra precaution.
Pilots can prepare for winter weather conditions through a number of weather information resources. These include the FSS, a telephone service which provides information on weather conditions, fronts, cloud coverage and more. Pilots simply dial 1-800-WX-BRIEF to hear up-to-date weather reports.
Special Winter Weather Aircraft Conditions
Two aircraft conditions to guard against during wintry conditions are wing stall and roll upsets. Wing stalls occur when there is too little air flowing over the wings due to ice accumulation. This prevents the plane from gathering enough lift to continue flying. Pilots are trained to use muscle-memory to correct such conditions, since speedy action must be taken in the event of ice-induced wing stall.
Roll upsets are correct by similar measures. Roll upsets refer to moments when the a plane rolls uncontrollably due to airflow separation in front of the ailerons. Roll upsets generally occur in severe winter conditions when large water droplets flow back into areas that cannot be reached by deicing or anti-icing systems.
Aircraft Polish, Deicing and Dealing with Winter Weather
While aircraft polish is extremely versatile, it may need to work in partnership with deicing and anti-icing mechanisms in order to safely address winter weather conditions. Keep your FAA regulations handy to adhere to the rules regarding flight during the winter months, and be sure to keep you plane clean and free of debris to ensure the safest flights possible.