With most of the country in a deep freeze, deicing your airplane is of paramount concern as even a light coat of frost can reduce lift as much as 40%.
These photos were taken earlier this month at Clover Park Technical College in South Hill, Washington, just east of Tacoma. The area received a few inches of snow Christmas week when the students were on semester break. The airplanes are usually on the ramp because the school does not have enough hangar space to house all its fleet.
When classes are in session, it is standard procedure for the ice and snow to be cleared off the airplanes on a daily basis. Because there was no one on campus during the break, the few inches of snow melted, refroze, and became a layer of clear ice.
Classes resumed at 8 a.m. Jan 3. First order of business was clearing the frozen contamination off the airplanes as even a light coat of frost can reduce lift as much as 40%.
There was too much ice on the airplanes to pull them into the hangar for defrosting without making a huge mess, so the defrosting took place on the ramp — which was also covered with a sheet of ice. During the process, two students slipped on the ice and experienced an uncommanded gravity check resulting in an unusual attitude, but fortunately sustained no damage.
Under the direction of the CFIs, a handful of students carefully pulled and pushed the airplanes into the sun where, using soft brushes, isopropyl alcohol, chamois rags, and soft cloths, they cleaned the aircraft.
The deicing “party” was not completed until two in the afternoon, at which time the airplanes began to refreeze.
So what’s the best way to de-ice your plane?
- Don’t use an ice scraper or other hard plastic to clean off the windscreen or windows. It may work well on your car, but that’s on glass. Plexiglas is much softer and scratches easily.
- Don’t put the flaps down when you start the deicing process. They may be frozen up, and all you will do is tax the motor. There is also the chance that the battery has been sapped of energy by the cold and will not have the energy to deploy the flaps.
- Use a soft brush designated specifically for ice and snow removal. You don’t want to use the brush or broom you use to sweep the hangar, because a small rock or even grit could scratch the plexiglas or paint.
- Beware of cabin leaks. Often the ice forms in the headliner or on the bulkhead or windscreen. Cover the instrument panel with towels or newspaper to protect it from dripping water during the defrosting.
- Don’t be surprised to find condensation on or in the instruments. Wipe with a chamois cloth to remove moisture.
- If you use isopropyl alcohol to de-ice, make sure not to get it in your eyes.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and get all the moisture off, especially if refreezing is a possibility.
- If you defrost on the ramp in the sun, turn the airplane periodically to take advantage of the sun’s rays.
- If you put your plane in a hangar to defrost, make sure you wipe up the puddles.
- You may want to consider pre-heating the engine before you start it up.