Airfoil shape and degradation of that shape must also be considered in a discussion of stalls. For example, if ice, snow, and frost are allowed to accumulate on the surface of an aircraft, the smooth airflow over the wing is disrupted. This causes the boundary layer to separate at an AOA lower than that of the critical angle. Lift is greatly reduced, altering expected aircraft performance. If ice is allowed to accumulate on the aircraft during flight [Figure 4-34], the weight of the aircraft is increased while the ability to generate lift is decreased. As little as 0.8 millimeter of ice on the upper wing surface increases drag and reduces aircraft lift by 25 percent.
Pilots can encounter icing in any season, anywhere in the country, at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet and sometimes higher. Small aircraft, including commuter planes, are most vulnerable because they fly at lower altitudes where ice is more prevalent. They also lack mechanisms common on jet aircraft that prevent ice buildup by heating the front edges of wings.
Icing can occur in clouds any time the temperature drops below freezing and super-cooled droplets build up on an aircraft and freeze. (Super-cooled droplets are still liquid even though the temperature is below 32 °Fahrenheit (F), or 0 °Celsius (C).
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