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Aerodynamic Factors

In addition to the hazards of structural and induction icing, the pilot must be aware of other aircraft systems susceptible to icing. The effects of icing do not produce the performance loss of structural icing or the power loss of induction icing but can present serious problems to the instrument pilot.  Examples of such systems are flight instruments, stall warning systems, and windshields.

Flight Instruments

Various aircraft instruments including the airspeed indicator, altimeter, and rate-of-climb indicator utilize pressures sensed by pitot tubes and static ports for normal operation.  When covered by ice these instruments display incorrect information thereby presenting serious hazard to instrument flight. Detailed information on the operation of these instruments and the specific effects of icing is presented in Chapter 3, Flight Instruments.

Stall Warning Systems

Stall warning systems provide essential information to pilots.  These systems range from a sophisticated stall warning vane to a simple stall warning switch. Icing affects these systems in several ways resulting in possible loss of stall warning to the pilot. The loss of these systems can exacerbate an already hazardous situation. Even when an aircraft’s stall warning system remains operational during icing conditions, it may be ineffective because the wing stalls at a lower angle of attack due to ice on the airfoil.


Accumulation of ice on flight deck windows can severely restrict the pilot’s visibility outside of the aircraft. Aircraft equipped for flight into known icing conditions typically have some form of windshield anti-icing to enable the pilot to see outside the aircraft in case icing is encountered in flight. One system consists of an electrically heated plate installed onto the airplane’s windshield to give the pilot a narrow band of clear visibility. Another system uses a bar at the lower end of the windshield to spray deicing fluid onto it and prevent ice from forming. On high performance aircraft that require complex windshields to protect against bird strikes and withstand pressurization loads, the heating element often is a layer of conductive fi lm or thin wire strands through which electric current is run to heat the windshield and prevent ice from forming.

Antenna Icing

Because of their small size and shape, antennas that do not lay flush with the aircraft’s skin tend to accumulate ice rapidly. Furthermore, they often are devoid of internal anti-icing or deicing capability for protection. During flight in icing conditions, ice accumulations on an antenna may cause it to begin to vibrate or cause radio signals to become distorted and it may cause damage to the antenna. If a frozen antenna breaks off, it can damage other areas of the aircraft in addition to causing a communication or navigation system failure.

General Effects of Icing on Airfoils

The most hazardous aspect of structural icing is its aerodynamic effects. [Figure 2-19] Ice alters the shape of an airfoil, reducing the maximum coefficient of lift and angle of attack at which the aircraft stalls. Note that at very low angles of attack, there may be little or no effect of the ice on the coefficient of lift.  Therefore, […]

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Types of Icing on an Aircraft

Structural Icing Structural icing refers to the accumulation of ice on the exterior of the aircraft. Ice forms on aircraft structures and surfaces when super-cooled droplets impinge on them and freeze. Small and/or narrow objects are the best collectors of droplets and ice up most rapidly. This is why a small protuberance within sight of the pilot can be used […]

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Load Factor

Any force applied to an aircraft to deflect its flight from a straight line produces a stress on its structure; the amount of this force is termed load factor. A load factor is the ratio of the aerodynamic force on the aircraft to the gross weight of the aircraft (e.g., lift/weight). For example, a load factor of 3 means the […]

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Aerodynamics in Turns

Like any moving object, an aircraft requires a sideward force to make it turn. In a normal turn, this force is supplied by banking the aircraft in order to exert lift inward, as well as upward. The force of lift is separated into two components at right angles to each other. [Figure 2-13] The upward acting lift together with the […]

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Aerodynamics in Climbs

The ability for an aircraft to climb depends upon an excess power or thrust over what it takes to maintain equilibrium.  Excess power is the available power over and above that required to maintain horizontal flight at a given speed.  Although the terms power and thrust are sometimes used interchangeably (erroneously implying they are synonymous), distinguishing between the two […]

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Slow-Speed Flight – Airplane Size

Small Airplanes Most small airplanes maintain a speed well in excess of 1.3 times VSO on an instrument approach. An airplane with a stall speed of 50 knots (VSO) has a normal approach speed of 65 knots. However, this same airplane may maintain 90 knots (1.8 VSO) while on the final segment of an instrument approach. The landing gear will […]

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Slow-Speed Flight

Anytime an aircraft is flying near the stalling speed or the region of reversed command, such as in final approach for a normal landing, the initial part of a go around, or maneuvering in slow flight, it is operating in what is called slow-speed flight. If the aircraft weighs 4,000 pounds, the lift produced by the aircraft must be 4,000 […]

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Regions of Command

The drag curve also illustrates the two regions of command: the region of normal command, and the region of reversed command. The term “region of command” refers to the relationship between speed and the power required to maintain or change that speed. “Command” refers to the input the pilot must give in terms of power or thrust to maintain a new […]

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