How Icing Can Affect Your Aircraft

When operating an aircraft in colder conditions and locations, it is always important to be well aware of the hazards that icing can present. As atmospheric temperatures reach freezing levels, ice coatings and deposits may form on various parts of the aircraft, possibly blocking ports, affecting the performance of instruments, or even obstructing views. Depending on the location of ice formation and its severity, icing can potentially create dangerous conditions that can make flying an aircraft unsafe until such deposits are removed. In this blog, we will discuss some of the main types of aircraft icing and where they occur, allowing you to best protect your aircraft and ensure the safety of flight operations.

When icing begins to form, the hazards posed are often dictated by atmospheric temperatures, the speed of the aircraft, the temperature of aircraft surfaces, the shape of the surface, and the size of the droplet. For instance, as aircraft travel through cold, wet conditions, droplets may begin to collect on the forward-facing side of the wing structures and create deposits around it. As the aircraft speeds up, more droplets may collect and begin to freeze as they spread. With aircraft that have thicker wing curvatures, the collection of droplets tends to be less than their thinner counterparts. Nevertheless, such formations can still prove detrimental to safety if they deter the deployment and proper functionality of tubes, vents, control surfaces, and other aircraft parts.

As engines are typically placed in the flow of air and may be subject to freezing temperatures as well, the collection of ice deposits can be very harmful to their internal components. For the intake cowling in particular, ice can decrease the assembly’s ability to bring in fresh air, affecting the performance of the engine during the combustion phase. Additionally, ice can cause rotors and blades to lose performance and possible flame out. Lastly, ice can also cause structural damage to the engine and its internal components, possibly leading to dangerous conditions if not removed properly.

Generally speaking, the areas that are most at risk for initial freezing are often those that have small leading edges. On many aircraft, the air temperature gauge is the first component that will freeze during colder conditions. Then, ice will form slowly on areas such as the wings, propeller blades, and even the aircraft windshield if there are not systems in place to remove such formations. If ice is allowed to continue to form on critical flight instruments and engine parts unfettered, the aircraft may eventually reach a failure or loss of power.

To optimally combat and treat icing, it is important to be able to identify the common types that occur. Rime ice is one that occurs when flying through certain clouds, and it can cause a white-colored collection of ice deposits. Rime ice is often formed on surfaces that fall below freezing temperatures, and deposits can be identified by their spherical shape. While rime ice is lightweight, it can still affect lift and other aerodynamics. With clear ice deposits, large droplets may be spread out haphazardly across surfaces. As clear ice is caused from impact temperatures above freezing temperature, a sheet may be created through the spread of droplets. With mixed ice, a mixture of rime and clear ice may be formed on surfaces, and they consist of irregular, rough deposits. Lastly, frost is a type of icing that can form even in clear air due to deposition. While frost holds little danger for aerodynamics, it can obstruct pilot views and affect the signals of radio equipment.

As icing can have high effects on the aerodynamics of flight and may present operational hazards, it is important that pilots are well aware of their potential dangers. At ASAP Components, we can help you secure the parts, chemicals, and systems that you need for your aircraft to combat the deposition and collection of ice. Explore our robust part catalogs at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are readily available 24/7x365 to assist you through the purchasing process as needed. Get started today and experience how ASAP Components is revolutionizing the part procurement process for our customers.


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April 22, 2021

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