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The Common Types of Aircraft De-Icing Systems

The buildup of ice on the wings of aircraft and other surfaces can be highly detrimental to flight, detracting from the aerodynamics of structures which can lead to losses in performance and various hazards. To avoid such issues, aircraft utilize various methods to remove ice as it forms, and such solutions are known as de-icing equipment. As there are various types of aircraft de-icing systems that can be used, each varying in its advantages and drawbacks, it can be useful to have a basic understanding of the most common forms.

Pneumatic Ice Boots

As ice formation can easily form on the forward-facing surface of the aircraft’s wings, pneumatic boots are quite useful. Pneumatic boots are inflatable surfaces that are filled with compressor bleed air, allowing for ice to quickly be broken up and removed with ease. With manual and automatic modes, pneumatic ice boots are easy to use. Despite this, the inflation of the boot will also affect the aerodynamics of the wing, typically leading to an increase in stall speed. Additionally, if boots are ever punctured or otherwise damaged, they will lose their ability to be used, making it more difficult to remove ice formations.

Weeping Wings

Weeping wings are another solution for removing ice build-ups on the wings, and they are advantageous for their ability to guard the entire airfoil surface from ice. Weeping wings rely on the use of a TKS fluid that is pumped from leading edges, and this fluid will move across the top and bottom of the wing as it flies forward. While this system is simplistic and effective, it only works if there are fluids available to pump. As such, a pilot will need to plan accordingly and bring enough fluid to accommodate the length of the flight.

Bleed Air Surfaces

Like fluids, heated air can also be used to prevent and remove the formation of ice on surfaces. Bleed air systems are very efficient as hot air will always be available so long as the engine is running. Despite this, it is important to know when to activate bleed air surfaces, as too late an activation can cause a runback where certain surfaces freeze. Additionally, a late start also runs the risk of large chunks of ice entering the engine system, potentially causing various forms of damage.

Electrically Heated Surfaces

While other systems may support the aircraft’s wings, electrically heated systems often protect areas like the windshield from ice. With power provided by electricity, electrically heated surfaces are reliable so long as there is no electrical failure. It is important that such systems are not haphazardly used, as their activation during ground operations can lead to part damage. Additionally, such systems are also not powerful enough to protect wings and tail surfaces, limiting their application.

Electro-Mechanical Systems

Electro-mechanical systems utilize sensors to detect the build-up of ice, and coils placed underneath the leading-edge skin of wings will begin to vibrate in response to detection. This will cause the ice in wings to break off, all while avoiding any change to the airfoil surface. Another major benefit is the low power requirement of such systems, allowing them to be used with low cost. Nevertheless, electro-mechanical systems are not without their drawbacks as they require more significant retrofitting for older models and cannot be placed on all surfaces to protect the engine.


Whether you are interested in retrofitting your existing aircraft for ice protection or are simply replacing aging parts, Aviation Sphere has everything you could require with competitive pricing and rapid lead-times for your benefit. With AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, we go above and beyond industry standards to guarantee items of the highest caliber with every order. Using our online RFQ system, customers can request quotes on various items with ease, and responses are always provided within 15 minutes of receiving a completed form. Contact an Aviation Sphere representative today and see how we are revolutionizing the procurement process for our customers. 


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