Aircraft Deicing: Then and Now

Aircraft deicing has been going on since the advent of flying in some form or fashion. In the early days aircraft were deiced in a pure mechanical operation. The control surfaces were scraped or brushed or both in many cases. As time and technology...


Another significant development in the late 1980s was the introduction of using forced air to clean aircraft surfaces. Unlike the acceptance of Type II, the utilization of forced air to clean aircraft would take much longer than the thickened fluid. Research and development went on for many years and, largely thanks to the efforts of Mr. Lee Williams, has finally been accepted. Lee was instrumental in the development of this system and today holds a patent on the nozzle used by most US manufacturers. This patent was obtained by working with the engineers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Since the acceptance of forced air, manufacturers have continued to enhance this form of deicing by injecting small amounts of fluid, both heated and nonheated. The results have been quite successful and a significant reduction in the amount of fluid used has been reported in some deicing applications.

In the mid 1990s Type II fluid was replaced by Type IV fluid. This new fluid had the same characteristics as the Type II fluid, but was not nearly as fragile. The Type IV fluid can be handled without the fear of destroying its usefulness.

Today the manufacturers of both fluid and equipment strive to improve their products while maintaining the focus of flight safety. With the use of technology, equipment continues to become more specific in design and functionality. Everything from small pre-mix trailer deicers, to truck-mounted, to purpose-built specialty machines, are produced to keep the aviation community flying safely. The units of tomorrow will continue to be enhanced and refined to perform their function with the upmost efficiency.

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