Plane De-Icing

Have you every wondered what the deal is with plane de-icing? I always have, and now I have some answers to share. First, why? This is an important one: when ice forms on the wings of a plane, it limits the flow of air over the wing surface, which limits the wings’ ability to create lift. That’s bad.

Second, what is done? Some airports have a car-wash-like set-ups where they can literally taxi the plane through to de-ice. Others use booms like shown at right. Hot water (140 degrees F) is mixed with special chemicals to blast off any ice that has formed.

Then, a second spray is applied that acts likes a wax, preventing ice from forming for a time after the de-icing. The total amount of liquid sprayed is around 100 liters (about 25 gallons). Once this is done, planes must take off within about 30 minutes, which is the time during which the preventative lasts.