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Airplane Deicing , what for?

The protocols importance.

At the airport, during the winter months, it is very usual seeing maintenance staff on cranes or trucks spraying our plane with a pressurised fluid. Many people believe this is a simple wash and they may even end up getting annoyed if this “wash” causes a delay of minutes in the departure of their flight. In fact, they are doing what is known as de-icing, meaning they are eliminating ice, frost and/or snow that may have accumulated on the aircraft during its stop; this process is known as decontamination. De-icing is a procedure that prevents frost, ice or snow accumulation on the treated surfaces of the aircraft for a limited amount of time, which is why is must be done minutes before taking off.

When any of the aircraft critical surfaces is contaminated with ice, frost or snow, taking off is completely forbidden, complying with Air Safety Regulations.


Planes generate lift when the air flows over the contoured surface and under the flat surface of the wing. The accumulation of ice on the wings modifies their aerodynamic profile, which is why it is so important to carry out a pre-flight inspection with tactile examinations (sometimes performed by the Captain himself) together with the de-icing techniques. In this way planes are able to fly safely, even under severe winter weather conditions. 

(c) AeroSavvy

When we are flying at a great height the air outside can reach temperatures below -40°C.  Consequently, the manufacturers install devices on the wings that warm these surfaces up, preventing the formation of ice at great heights.

De-icing procedure

Very often such de-icing takes place in a remote area of the airport, but it can also be done around the boarding gate, which saves time and fuel.

During the de-icing process, the pilots configure the aircraft by putting the flaps down and temporarily deactivating its ventilation system in order to avoid the ingress of smells in the cabin.

From the radome (a radar cover that is sometimes on the nose of the plane) to the empennage, the operation can take from five to ten minutes to be completed, depending on the size of the plane.

Video: deicing in Lufthansa plane

Cover photo: Malpensa Spotters Group 


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