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Archive for January, 2012

Winter weather and airplane De-icing

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Midwest has seen an unusual amount of warm weather this winter.  Normally this would be welcome, but for those of us in aviation, it actually causes problems.  When the temperature is within a close range of the freezing mark,  ground icing can actually be a problem.  Our aircraft have to be de iced with what amounts to RV anti Freeze (Glycol) and if there is active snow or rain falling,  then we also have a time limit that we must takeoff within or the de ice fluid loses its’ effectiveness.  When this happens we have to de ice again!

At American Business AIrways we try to give you a firm quote for your trip. the only times, normally, we have to charge a bit extra after the flight is completed is when a customer stays on the ground longer than estimated in the quote, or there are extensive in flight ATC delays or reroutes and these are actually rare.  Another area where we would have to charge you extra after the flight is completed is on international flights, as we may not be billed by customs or another country’s air traffic control for months later.

But in the winter,  We do not know if we will need to de ice or how much we will need when we quote the flight. Instead of just charging  you an average, we try to keep your cost down.  So in the event that we do have to de ice the airplane on your trip, we will have to bill the cost after your trip is completed.  We hope our customers understand that there is just no way to charge this up front and be fair to everyone.  Many times we can actually save money by putting the airplane in a hangar overnight, we might still have to de ice just before departure, but the amount of fluid needed would be less.  The economics of this depend on what the airport will charge for an overnight hangar.   we will always try to get you the best price.   Glycol costs about $15 per gallon, however, it is usually diluted with hot water, so it does go along way.  usually this winter we have been averaging about $200 to de ice the airplane.

Once in the air, the airplanes on board de ice and anti ice systems can usually take care of the ice found in flight, if not, we can change altitude to find a level that is ice free or at least one were the ice accumulates at a rate the airplane can handle.  and rarely there are times where not matter what we have on board, the ice is too great to safely fly.  even the airlines run into this.  its is rare however and we would know this before takeoff and delay the departure.

Some of the systems we have on the Navajo are also common to jets and some are more commonly found on smaller airplanes.  these include a heated windshield, heated instrument sensors (pilot tube and static ports)  Heated propeller blades and pneumatic de ice boots on the wings and tails.   The last two you may notice operating.   the heated propeller blades will actually sling ice off the blades as it forms and you may hear this as something hitting the airplane and regular intervals.   the airplane has shields on the nose to prevent dents.  if you hear this do not be alarmed, the airplane is doing what it is designed to do.   The Wing and tail boots you might see operate as they inflate to crack formed ice, the air then carriers it away.

With proper equipment, winter flying is safe and actually enjoyable once you get airborne, the airplane actually performs better and uses less runway.  most of the time except during and active storm, the clouds tops are very low and you will be flying in sunshine for most of the flight.  With the extra procedures however, sometimes it takes a little longer to get going.  We recommend that our customers leave a little extra time to get the their destination to allow for de icing and weather delays.