Aircraft deicing before take-off is required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Ice, snow or frost can cause significant problems, including increased stall speed, trim changes, altered stall characteristics, and problems in handling the airplane. Although icing can occur during flight, the most crucial time to deice the plane is before take-off, and the FAA requires the plane be checked for ice repeatedly before the pilot leaves the ground.
The best method for aircraft deicing may not be the most practical, especially at smaller airports. If possible, warm the airplane up in a hangar, and, as the ice melts, wipe the wings with a towel or chamois to avoid re-icing when the plane leaves the hangar. Then, apply a thin, protective coating of Freezing Point Depressant (FPD) liquid to keep ice from forming before take-off and during flight.
Another method for keeping ice from forming on the plane and reducing the need for aircraft deicing is to use airplane covers designed for the wings and other components prone to ice build-up. However, when the covers are removed, icing could still occur before take-off, and the application of FPD liquid may be necessary.
The most common method for aircraft deicing is the use of spray equipment that applies FPD liquids to the plane. Most airports provide portable spray equipment, such as pressurized containers and spray wands, hand pumps and mops that apply the liquid, which normally consists of ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. Larger airports may also offer ground support equipment for aircraft deicing. Frost, ice and snow are slow to absorb the liquid and may take multiple applications.
Although FPD liquid works well in aircraft deicing, it is important to remember that as ice melts, the FPD mixes with water, causing the solution to dilute. If the plane remains on the ground for more than five minutes after deicing, the FAA requires a re-check of the plane to ensure that ice has not built up on the plane while waiting, and additional applications may be necessary.
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