De-Icing Protocols For Flight Operations

In aviation, staying on top of the weather is paramount to passenger, crew safety, and flight completion. Nearly every aviation operation is weather-dependent! Airline and airport de-icing protocols must be clear and actionable in the moment to prevent flight delays, cancellations, and other disruptive events.

DTN remains an innovative, reliable, and precise weather data collaborator. We help you acquire accurate long-term, short-term, and in-the-moment weather data so you can increase up-time and outpace your operational and revenue goals.

Discover our patented DTN Airline and DTN Airport solution packages to keep your planes landing and taking off smoothly, and your schedules on-time. DTN helps power on-time flights and fewer cancellations without compromising safety. Contact us today to discover what’s possible for your airport, airline, or aircraft.


How Ice Buildup Decreases Wing Aerodynamics

A clean wing features a flat underside and a curved top surface. The variance in airspeed between the bottom and top of the wing creates lift. Combined with the forward engine thrust, lift enables an airplane to take off once the plane achieves the required velocity.

Of course, when you add freezing temps and precipitation (or even moist air) on a solid surface traveling at high speed, you get ice buildup. When ice and snow build on the leading edge of a wing, the lift-inducing chamber of the wing changes, and lift may decrease or fail to happen at all.

A fatal and fateful crash in 1982 demonstrated the immediate need for deicing technology. A Boeing 737 carrying 74 passengers and crew flew out of Washington, D.C., with too much ice on its wings. The plane failed to climb and promptly crashed into the Potomac River, killing everyone on board.

Following the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) updated commercial aircraft safety regulations to include on-wing deicing equipment. Even with a wing-mounted deicing system, conditions can get so cold and icy that a preflight anti-icing bath becomes necessary.

Swiss airplanes on icy tarmac

When Does De-Icing Become Necessary?

Since weather, air temperature, and air moisture content can change rapidly in flight, it makes icy conditions challenging to predict. 

Flight crews can predict icing risk by tracking the types of clouds into which they fly. Cumulus and Stratiform clouds can present different temperature-to-ice-risk ranges. Ambient temperatures at or below 0 degrees Celsius plus rain, sleet, or snow increase icing risk.

In general, the icing “danger zone” is between four and minus-ten degrees Celsius at any altitude with a threshold moisture content. Having laser-targeted weather data preflight and in-flight can help pilots respond more quickly to avoid wing ice buildup.

Two airplanes sitting in snowstorm

Responding Nimbly In The Event Of Wind And Ice

Pilots can check visually to determine whether ice begins to build on the top wing surface. They can also rely on weather data on the wing along with the flight plan.

De-icing the wings in-flight may mean activating a heated wing surface to prevent or melt ice accumulation. 

Another in-flight deicing option is to physically push ice off the wing with an integrated, moveable wing panel that ejects ice off its edge. (Ice must build upon the wing a bit before physical removal of this type becomes necessary.)

Having access to superior weather metrics at your fingertips keeps pilots on top of deicing protocols. It’s crucial to have accurate environmental data to make decisions guaranteed to keep passengers and crews safe.


To Spray Or Not To Spray?

Though pilots can deice wing edges in-flight, snow and ice can build up on the plane while grounded. Further, the plane’s nose contains sensitive radar that must be clear of snow and ice.

Spraying the plane with deicing liquid ensures optimal lift during takeoff. Deicing spray protocols must combine with in-flight anti-icing equipment to keep ice off the wings and tail. 

While deicing sprays remain a necessity for safety, they have financial and environmental downsides. Using advanced weather forecasting technology can help airports ensure safe flights while decreasing their negative environmental impact. 

For many consumers, environmental responsibility has become a larger factor in their traveling decisions. Using minimal deicing chemicals while still reducing flight risks can create expanded brand loyalty and consumer confidence.

Knowing precisely when to spray can also enable airports and airlines to spend less on deicing and more on other crucial initiatives.

Many airports may activate their de-icing protocols with a general approach. Of course, risk mitigation is paramount when icy conditions prevail. With more accurate weather data, airports can better determine when, where, and how often to deploy their mobile or stationary deicer spraying systems. 

While de-icing sprays manage ice build-up preflight, colder temps along the flight path can still overwhelm the sprayed de-icers and on-board de-icing equipment. Pilots may have to select a warmer altitude if conditions become dangerous. Having reliable weather and flight condition data is paramount to safe flights to and from any destination.

Airplane getting deiced

Extend De-Icing Spray Capacity And Savings With Improved Weather Forecasting

During the winter months, airports and airlines can become plagued with flight delays and cancellations. Part of these delays come from the de-icing process itself. 

It’s necessary to plan preventive measures by anti-icing many hours before take-off to present flight delays and queues of planes waiting for de-icing during take-off peak hours. Not to mention, there is also a need to plan for sufficient staff for de-icing and anti-icing treatments.

Streamlining your de-icing protocols with more accurate, precise weather forecasting and wing hazard analysis can put you ahead of your competitors. More safe flights reduced holdover time, and increased safety is possible with help from DTN.

You’ll have every metric you need at your fingertips to manage de-icing protocols. Plus, your pilots can access information on changing weather conditions precisely when they need it.

Discover our patented DTN Airline and DTN Airport solution packages to keep your planes landing and taking off smoothly, and your schedules on-time. DTN helps power on-time flights and fewer cancellations without compromising safety. Contact us today to discover what’s possible for your airport, airline, or aircraft.