Deicing Aircraft and Runways for Safe Travel

Ensuring that an aircraft is in proper working order prior to takeoff is essential for the safety of everyone on board. During the winter months, that often means removing any snow, ice, or frost that may accumulate on the wings or tail. The smallest amount of accumulation can negatively affect Performance and safety.  Luckily, there are safe methods to keep ice off aircraft, and safe  material storage solutions.

What Impact Does Snow, Ice, and Frost Have?
When snow, ice, or frost accumulates on the wings or tail of an aircraft, it changes the shape of the part. Components of an airplane are designed to exact specifications to provide the proper amount of lift, so even the slightest amount of frost can have a negative impact. To clear the plane of these winter effects and avoid future problems, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that deicing and anti-icing take place should any snow, ice, or frost accumulate on an aircraft. They recommend deicing:

Vertical & Horizontal Tail Surfaces
Engine Inlets & Fan Blades
Control Surfaces & Gaps
Landing Gear & Landing Gear Door
Antennas & Sensors

What is Lift?
The most important parts of an aircraft are the wings and tail. Both of these parts are intentionally designed as a specific shape to provide the proper amount of lift. The wings of most airplanes feature an airfoil, shaped with curved upper and flatter lower parts. This shape redirects the air and alters the air pressure, lifting the aircraft.

When the engines thrust the aircraft forward, the air is heading directly toward the front of the wing. As it reaches the wing, it splits with some air molecules moving over the wing and others dipping under the wing. By the time the air moving around the wing heads toward the back, the air above and below the wing is moving in a downward direction, lifting the aircraft.

Deicing an Airplane
If snow, ice, or frost has accumulated on an airplane, the first step is removal. Deicing a plane usually involves the spraying of a pressurized deicing fluid— a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, a popular antifreeze. Glycol is often used because it lowers the freezing point of the water, allowing the mixture to be more effective. Once heated, the deicing agent is applied to the aircraft where necessary.

Anti-Icing an Airplane
While deicing an aircraft will remove any snow, ice, or frost, it does little to prevent future accumulation before or during flight.
If additional snow, ice, or frost falls onto the plane, an anti-icing fluid will be required to keep the wings clear. This fluid has a higher concentration of glycol than the deicing agent, lowering the freezing point to well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. This specific concentration easily prevents precipitation from freezing onto the aircraft. It also includes an additive that further thickens the mixture, making application and adherence of the product easy.

Spraying the Plane
When spraying a deicing or anti-icing agent on larger commercial jets, the FAA recommends using two to four deicing rigs. These vehicles typically feature an arm that raises the spraying apparatus so it can hover over the wing of the plane. Large airports often have separate vehicles that spray deicing agents on runways and taxiways. For smaller airports with fewer resources, a deicing trailer may be used to deice both planes and runways.

Deicing a Runway
The deicing or anti-icing of an airplane will improve takeoff and flight, but it’s not the only factor to consider. If a plane lands on a piece of ice sitting on a runway, regardless of the condition of the plane, it can lose control and skid off the surface. To avoid this, a deicing or anti-icing agent is applied, improving the surface friction for better breaking action and directional control. The materials used for this purpose is often referred to as pavement deicing products (PDP) or runway deicing fluid (RDF). The applications of these products lower the freezing point of water, causing the frozen elements to melt or prevent the freezing or re-freezing of liquid.

Storage Solutions Made Simple with Argo
Argo Water Trailers sold by GEI Works are a versatile and practical water storage solution, in that they can serve both to apply anti-icing or de-icing solutions to small aircraft, and can also spray roadways and runways to prevent ice or snow accumulation.  In warmer weather, water trailers are frequently used to wash aircraft, transport water, or for grounds keeping.  Built to your specifications, to exacting quality standards, the Argo Water Trailer delivers. 

If you’re interested in a deicer trailer or deicing brine storage, call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at to get a quote today!

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