De-icing is the process of removing snow, ice, and frost accumulated on the aircraft: A procedure that on average is performed in only 5-6 minutes. Although it has no visible benefits to the airline, it is actually one of the most important airport’s procedures in winter.
The anti-icing solution which is normally used across the industry includes only two ingredients: food-grade glycol and water. Depending on the concentration, de-icing companies can bring down the liquid’s freezing point below the air temperature, which ensures 45 minutes of protection from ice formation in cold weather with no precipitation. Some companies suck up the anti-icing liquid from the ground once the de-icing process is complete. By doing so, they reduce the environmental impacts.
But why is de-icing so important for airlines? When an aircraft’s engine is started, vibrations can break the ice on the engine’s cowling, and have it sucked into the engine itself. Once inside the engine, the ice can deposit on warm surfaces and cause temporary power losses or damages. Fortunately, all pilots know how to handle a power loss, but an engine failure would have a high cost for the airline, including the expenses for housing and rebooking stranded passengers.
The overall performance of the aircraft can also be affected by the presence of ice on the aircraft’s surfaces. For instance, if the wings are covered with ice, the airflow gets interrupted, meaning that the plane cannot stay in the air. In normal circumstances, when the airplane wings are clean, the air is able to flow over and under the wings with no interruptions.
Incorrect de-icing processes can pose a serious threat to both the plane and the passengers. Past incidents have proved that even small amounts of snow or ice can be extremely dangerous. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that no ice forms on the aircraft from when de-icing ends to when the take-off starts. By making sure that vital airplane surfaces are not contaminated, pilots can have better control of the aircraft.