How are Aircraft Deiced Before Takeoffs?

During the colder months, ice forming on aircraft can pose a problem. Ice that coats aircraft parts can cause multiple hindrances and even affect the lift of the plane. Through deicing and anti-icing, aircraft can have ice removed from the body and components, as well as have protection from reformation.

The deicing compounds that are used for aircraft are a mix of glycol and water. Glycol is a very important chemical as it has the ability to lower freezing points. This compound is then sprayed over the aircraft with a hose and is evenly coated across the entirety. Speed and thoroughness of this process is of utmost importance due to the possibility of the plane deicing again, which is its “holdover time”. This time can be as little as a few minutes, so often deicing is done very close to liftoff.

As deicing does not prevent the possibility of refreezing of parts, utilizing an anti-icing application is very beneficial as needed. Anti-ice formulas are similar to aircraft deicing, but the amount of glycol concentration is much higher. Anti-icing is spread uniformly across the aircraft and is done in a thin coated layer. According to the FAA, anti-icing should always be done within three minutes of deicing.

Once the aircraft is in the air, there is much less to worry about freezing as aircraft have methods to keep parts warm. Aircraft may have pipes that carry hot air created by the engine to other parts, such as the wings and tail, to keep them from freezing. These methods are often in place because the altitude in which most commercial aircraft fly in is below freezing all year round.

Although applying deicing and anti-icing compounds can sometimes cause a flight to be slightly delayed, it is very important to the optimal functionality and safety of the aircraft. The FAA has set out very strict rules and guidelines for how the agents are made, how they are applied, and more to ensure that these processes are done correctly and efficiently.


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