Anti-icing equipment is designed to prevent the formation of ice, while deicing equipment is designed to remove ice once it has formed. These systems protect the leading edge of wing and tail surfaces, pitot and static port openings, fuel tank vents, stall warning devices, windshields, and propeller blades. Ice detection lighting may also be installed on some aircraft to determine the extent of structural icing during night flights.
Most light aircraft have only a heated pitot tube and are not certified for flight in icing. These light aircraft have limited cross-country capability in the cooler climates during late fall, winter, and early spring. Noncertificated aircraft must exit icing conditions immediately. Refer to the AFM/POH for details.
Airfoil Anti-Ice and Deice
Inflatable deicing boots consist of a rubber sheet bonded to the leading edge of the airfoil. When ice builds up on the leading edge, an engine-driven pneumatic pump inflates the rubber boots. Many turboprop aircraft divert engine bleed air to the wing to inflate the rubber boots. Upon inflation, the ice is cracked and should fall off the leading edge of the wing. Deicing boots are controlled from the flight deck by a switch and can be operated in a single cycle or allowed to cycle at automatic, timed intervals. [Figure 6-48]
In the past it was believed that if the boots were cycled too soon after encountering ice, the ice layer would expand instead of breaking off, resulting in a condition referred to as ice “bridging.” Consequently, subsequent deice boot cycles would be ineffective at removing the ice buildup. Although some residual ice may remain after a boot cycle, “bridging” does not occur with any modern boots. Pilots can cycle the boots as soon as an ice accumulation is observed. Consult the AFM/POH for information on the operation of deice boots on an aircraft.
Many deicing boot systems use the instrument system suction gauge and a pneumatic pressure gauge to indicate proper boot operation. These gauges have range markings that indicate the operating limits for boot operation. Some systems may also incorporate an annunciator light to indicate proper boot operation.
Proper maintenance and care of deicing boots are important for continued operation of this system. They need to be carefully inspected during preflight.
Another type of leading edge protection is the thermal anti-ice system. Heat provides one of the most effective methods for preventing ice accumulation on an airfoil. High performance turbine aircraft often direct hot air from the compressor section of the engine to the leading edge surfaces. The hot air heats the leading edge surfaces sufficiently to prevent the formation of ice. A newer type of thermal anti-ice system referred to as thermawing uses electrically heated graphite foil laminate applied to the leading edge of the wing and horizontal stabilizer. Thermawing systems typically have two zones of heat application. One zone on the leading edge receives continuous heat; the second zone further aft receives heat in cycles to dislodge the ice allowing aerodynamic forces to remove it. Thermal anti-ice systems should be activated prior to entering icing conditions.
An alternate type of leading edge protection that is not as common as thermal anti-ice and deicing boots is known as a weeping wing. The weeping-wing design uses small holes located in the leading edge of the wing to prevent the formation and build-up of ice. An antifreeze solution is pumped to the leading edge and weeps out through the holes. Additionally, the weeping wing is capable of deicing an aircraft. When ice has accumulated on the leading edges, application of the antifreeze solution chemically breaks down the bond between the ice and airframe, allowing aerodynamic forces to remove the ice. [Figure 6-48]
Learn more about aircraft and their systems with A Pilot’s Guide to Aircraft and Their Systems by ASA. Pilot-oriented rather than mechanic-oriented, this guide to aircraft systems is designed specifically to help general aviation pilots understand how aircraft systems work so that they can better use them in flight.