As the UK looks set to shiver in sub-zero temperatures – Menzies Aviation – the largest provider of aircraft de-icing services in the UK – has presented series of behind the scenes images (below) showing how an aircraft is de-iced.
The ground handler also details the technical skill required to ensure airline passengers reach their destinations on time, whatever the weather.
With the wings and tail of an aircraft bearing the brunt of the cold weather, any level of snow and ice can impact flight safety by interrupting air flow over the wing, and as little as 3-5mm of ice can reduce aircraft lift by 30 per cent.
This makes ice a serious concern for airlines – in Winter 2017/2018 alone, Menzies Aviation said that it de-iced over 50,000 aircraft across the globe.
Menzies Aviation’s specialist de-icing rigs, such as these “Vestergaard Elephant Betas”, are out in force throughout the winter to ensure each aircraft is free of ice for its journey ahead.
An army of de-icing specialists have to successfully complete a stringent training programme before taking to the tarmac, which includes 13 hours of theoretical study.
Menzies Aviation even runs a yearly, global de-icing conference to develop new ideas and best practices for the industry, and plan for the winter ahead.
This Norwegian aircraft (pictured left) is being sprayed with approximately 200 litres (44 gallons) of de-icing fluid in the middle of the night. The fluid consists of monopropylene glycol, a powerful anti-freezing agent, mixed with water and a variety of additives.
Excess fluid is then collected after spraying to be decontaminated, recycled, and finally disposed of in a safe manner.
In Winter 2017/2018, Menzies sprayed more than seven million litres of de-icing fluid on aircraft worldwide.
De-icing experts must start from the leading to trailing edge of each wing, and from the highest to lowest points of the aircraft, in order to complete the process properly and safely.
They use the combined effect of the heated fluid and pressure of the spray to clear ice and snow from every surface; then, they apply an even layer of anti-icing protection to all critical surfaces.
Using specialist software, Menzies Aviation said it is able to co-ordinate their de-icing crews to ensure that aircraft, rigs and equipment are all at the right place at the right time, regardless of how quickly the weather deteriorates.
The average short-haul aircraft typically takes 10 minutes or less to de-ice, with two de-icing rigs, although the process can stretch to 30 minutes on days of heavy snow.
In extremely cold locations, more rigs may be deployed to speed the process; for example in chilly Oslo, it averages two minutes per short-haul aircraft.
Menzies said it is larger task to prepare a long-haul jet for take-off, such as this Boeing 747 Freighter (pictured left).
Up to six de-icing rigs can be deployed, spraying between 800 and 1,000 litres of fluid, to ensure that the giant aircraft will be ready for the runway within the same 10 minute period.