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De-icing and anti-icing aircrafts before takeoff: why and how

Winter is upon us across the entire northern hemisphere and this means that low temperatures, snow and ice will be affecting plane surfaces by adding extra weight and potentially troubling it’s aerodynamics during takeoff. As we all know, planes have hundreds of moving parts and plenty of them are in direct contact with the element: wings, horizontal stabilizers and the vertical stabilizer, just to name a few. All these components must be clean and free of contaminants in order for the aircraft to maintain the appropriate flow of air potentially reducing lift.

De-icing process before takeoff

The deicing process is accomplished by means of a heated orange fluid (Type 1) that is sprayed on the different areas. This fluid will vary in its composition depending on the weather conditions; if there’s no precipitation falling, then the crew will decide for a one-step procedure with Type 1 fluid, but if precipitation is falling, after completing the one-step procedure, the same process will be repeated now using Type 4 anti-icing fluid (green, thicker and not heated), a process called two-step procedure.

As stated by the FAA’s Standardized International Aircraft Ground Deice Program (SIAGDP), “some inspected areas can be cleaned manually during the inspection and a deicing procedure is not necessary. This procedure must be confirmed with the flight crew. The captain has the final authority of the procedure but the safer option should always be considered, whether it is the opinion of the flight crew or ground crew. There are some areas to include in the inspection while waiting for instructions from the flight crew. Areas to check include:

  1. Wings (upper and lower)
  2. Vertical and horizontal tail surfaces (upper and lower horizontal surfaces)
  3. Fuselage
  4. Engine inlets and fan blades (front and back side of fan blades)
  5. Control surfaces and gaps
  6. Pitot heads and static ports
  7. Landing gear and landing gear doors
  8. Antennas and sensors
  9. All other aerodynamic surfaces
  10. Propellers

As you can read, this process is a legal requirement for all aircrafts before departing; commercial, cargo or private. Regarding the costs of this procedure during a private chartered flight, charges are usually invoiced after the flight is completed and costs per liter will vary depending on the airport. Check out this video on how the deicing is carried out: