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The Importance of Aircraft De-Icing and How It Is Done

While traversing the sky, aircraft rely on the shape of their wings and fuselage to achieve ample lift through the manipulation of airflow as they move forward. When traveling in colder climates where temperatures are below freezing, there is often the risk of moisture present on various surfaces turning into ice, creating deposits that have the chance of disrupting air flow, blocking ports, inhibiting flight surface movement, and much more. This can both detract from performance as well as present potential hazards if instruments and systems lose functionality. As ice can even form on the front windshield and block the view of pilots, it is crucial that there are resources in place to prevent ice formation. Luckily, most modern aircraft feature de-icing and anti-icing systems, those of which work to prevent the formation of ice and remove any existing deposits.

While on the ground before a flight, aircraft de-icing systems will be used to remove any existing deposits that are present. To do this, de-icing fluids such as propylene glycol (PG) with additives or ethylene glycol (EG) will be used. While EG has a lower operational use temperature, PG is most common as it presents less toxicity. With de-icing fluids, personnel will ensure that all engine inlets, sensors, and ports are clear of ice or snow.

Once in the air, aircraft can utilize various onboard systems to remove any present ice. For instance, ice will often form near the leading edge of wings, engines, and the aircraft tail, and de-icing boots will typically be controlled by the pilot to in-flight ice removal. De-icing boots come in the form of an inflatable rubber covering that will expand when activated to crack ice deposits so they fall off surfaces. Instead of utilizing gas, inflatable boots are powered by the pneumatic system of the aircraft.

Alongside pneumatics, aircraft will also take advantage electrical, chemical, air bleed, and resonance frequency systems to remove ice and prevent its formation. For electrical systems, aircraft will often feature electrically heated resistive elements that are present within rubber sheets lining the leading edges of the tail, wings, propellers, and other surfaces. Additionally, some electrical heating elements may also line the pilot windshield to keep it safe.

Chemicals are also commonly used for in-flight ice removal as antifreeze products like alcohol or propylene glycol can be pumped out from small holes present on various surfaces. This antifreeze will quickly remove any ice that is present, additionally creating a shield from later formation for continued protection. While not particularly a de-icing system, chemical coatings may also be present on the cockpit windshield to deter the collection of moisture.

Air bleed systems are fairly similar in function to electrical de-icing systems, albeit melting ice deposits with hot blasts of air that are provided by engine bleed air. Generally, bleed air is used for the leading edge of wings, air data probes, and engine inlets. As air bleed systems can often be autonomous, they can be very beneficial as a hands-off approach to ice removal.

The final type of de-icing system that is commonly found on aircraft is of the resonance frequency type. These systems are developed by NASA, and they are capable of detecting ice on a surface as formations change resonance frequencies. When this detection occurs, a large current spike will be used to induce a mechanical shock strong enough to break down the ice layer.

With the proper systems in place, pilots can best ensure the removal of hazardous ice formations before and during flight. If you are in the market for aircraft anti-ice parts, aircraft de-icing parts, or other related items, look no further than Aviation Sphere. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we present customers access to an unrivaled inventory containing over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find items. Once you find the particular items you are interested in, fill out and submit an RFQ form at your earliest convenience, and a team member will reach out in 15 minutes or less to offer a customized quote for your comparisons.


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