Fighting the Cold: Deicing Equipment in Aircraft


One of the greatest innovations that aviation technology has made in modernizing all-weather capabilities is deicing equipment. Aircraft that do not operate in regions that freeze over can still face ice build-up as a potential issue, due to the altitude at which they operate. Ice forming along wings, aircraft propellers, and control surfaces can severely impact an airplane’s handling characteristics and performance, making deicing equipment an integral part of maintaining an aircraft’s safety.      

These measures come in two different forms.  The first are anti-icing systems, which describe all the equipment that is used before icing can occur, such as before takeoff or before flying into inclement weather.  The second are deicing systems, which are used after ice has begun to build.     

Anti-icing systems typically involve heat from one source or another. Keeping critical areas like control surfaces, adaptor pitot tubes, propellers, and windshields warm prevents water from freezing. This heat typically comes from one of two sources, the most common being the aircraft’s engines. Known as bleed air, this air is typically used in turbine aircraft to keep engine components warm and safe, or sent via ducts in the aircraft to other areas like the leading edges of wings and windshields.  Carburetor heat on piston aircraft operates on a similar principle. The downside of bleed-air systems is that they introduce excessive noise and rob the engine of power. 

An alternative method for heating critical surfaces is to use electricity, much like a toaster or hot plate, by applying an electric current to a closed circuit.  This method is typically applied to propellers, drains, and pitot-static systems. However, these systems must be activated before ice begins to accumulate, as there is no guarantee that they will get hot enough to melt away thick ice. 

Deicing systems focus on removing ice after it is already present.  Deicing comes in the form of spraying the aircraft down with an antifreeze solution similar to what is used in automobiles, a mixture of ethylene glycol and water. Because glycol has a much lower freezing point than water, it can be heated and applied to melt away ice and prevent it from forming again. This process occurs before takeoff on commercial jets. In addition, some planes carry dispensers that can apply deicing fluid where necessary. The limitation of these so-called “weeping wings,” of course, is that there is a limited supply of the fluid they can carry.  Additionally, just like the antifreeze you put in your car, this fluid is very toxic.

The final form of deicing equipment comes not from heat or fluid, but inflatable rubber strips along a wing’s leading edge. These rubber boots can be inflated, changing the wing’s shape and breaking the ice free from the aircraft.  Once the ice is gone, the boots deflate, and the wing returns to its original aerodynamic shape.  Like other methods, these boots have their drawbacks as well. Deicing boots add weight and power requirements to the aircraft. 

At ASAP Buying, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the deicing equipment or tools, whether for civil or defense aerospace and aviation. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@asapbuying.com or call us at 1-509-449-7700.


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