Ice formation is a hazardous condition for aircraft, posing a risk to critical flight systems and the optimal operation of flight surfaces and controls. When formed on wings, ice can disrupt the flow of air, negatively impacting aerodynamics and lift to result in a less efficient flight. If allowed to cover a static port or a pitot tube, then pilots may even lose the ability to track certain flight characteristics, making flight operations extremely unsafe. As such, there are a number of equipment pieces known as deicing equipment that are used to remove ice from various areas of the aircraft. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of the most common equipment pieces, allowing you to be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.
The pneumatic deicing boot or de-ice boot is a common ice protection system equipment piece that removes frozen liquids from the surface of an aircraft through mechanical means. Deicing boots are most commonly fitted to the leading edges of wings and control surfaces due to such areas being more prone to ice buildup. With a thick rubber membrane, pneumatic air is pumped in to inflate the membrane as needed, causing ice to crack and fall away with expansion. As such equipment relies on the use of compressor bleed air, deicing protection can be maintained as long as air is retained. Additionally, such systems may either be manual or automatic, giving more options for control over the system. Despite these advantages, the expansion of the membrane into the flow of air can increase stalling speed, resulting from the change in the airfoil shape. Furthermore, ice may form behind the boot, unable to be removed by the system.
A weeping wing is another common ice protection system, utilizing an assembly of fluid reservoirs and pumps to force special deicing fluids such as TKS to spread over the length of a wing during flight. These deicing fluids may come in a number of forms, capable of preventing the formation of ice or breaking up ice on surfaces due to their ability to lower freezing points. As the weeping wing system is designed to run TKS fluids across the top and bottom of the wing, ample protection may be achieved. Despite this, the amount of TKS fluid that may be stored on an aircraft is finite, meaning it will eventually run out.
Bleed air surfaces are those that take advantage of compressor bleed air to prevent the formation of ice on leading edge surfaces. While the engine is running, an immense amount of hot air may be harnessed and routed to create efficient ice prevention. Despite this, timing is very important as too late of activation may cause runback while too early of an activation may cause ice chunks to break off and fall into the engine cowl. Similar to the de-ice boot, such systems also disrupt proper airflow and thus detract from performance.
For other surfaces such as the cockpit windshield, pitot tubes, and vanes, heating can be provided through electrical means for the prevention of ice formation. Unlike bleed air systems, the windshield and other components rely on electricity so that protection may be maintained as long as power is benign generated. While such systems are quite efficient at ice removal and prevention, they pose the risk of damaging sensitive components if heating is left on during ground operations. Additionally, such systems may only be used for smaller surfaces.
The Electro-Mechanical Expulsion Deicing System (EMEDS) is the final primary deicing system which is capable of ice detection through the use of a sensor. When ice accumulation is detected, coils situated at the leading edge will break off ice through vibration. With low power operations and no disruption of airflow, EMEDS can be very useful. Despite this, such systems are much newer and must be built into the airframe of an aircraft. As such, they are only found in a few select models at the moment and may not reach larger commercial aircraft implementation any time soon.
With the use of various deicing equipment, aircraft can prevent the detrimental formation of ice to increase the safety and efficiency of flight. RFQ experts is an online distributor of aircraft parts, offering customers competitive pricing on a plethora of new, used, and obsolete components that have been sourced from leading global manufacturers that we trust. With team members readily available around the clock, customers can request quotes for their comparisons at any time and receive a response in just 15 minutes or less. Get started today and see how we can help fulfill all your operational requirements at RFQ Experts.
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