O'Hare de-icing: It takes an elephant

-- Jan. 8--De-icing planes used to be a cold and dirty job that few airline workers wanted to do. But today, there seems to be no shortage of volunteers, thanks to high-tech equipment that makes the task almost enjoyable. Amid a...


The green anti-icing fluid must be applied within three minutes of the de-icing fluid, Lampe said. Then the clock starts ticking -- a maximum of one hour, under weather conditions in effect Thursday -- for the plane to taxi out to the runway and take off.

Otherwise, aircraft might be required to return the terminal for a second round of chemicals.

The anti-icing fluid cascades off the wings and other surfaces as the plane barrels down the runway at takeoff speed.

Lullo's partner, United ramp service worker Darren Keating, got a full taste of the non-toxic de-icer while standing on the tarmac near Gate B9 spraying propylene glycol on the right engine and underbelly of an Airbus A320 about to depart for Cancun, Mexico.

A thick cloud of de-icing fluid enveloped Keating.

"It tastes sweet, like pancake syrup," Keating, from Tinley Park, said later of the propylene glycol, which has low toxicity, is biodegradable and a form of it even is used in some soft drinks.

A few de-icing crew members said the chemical tastes more like Dr Pepper or Mountain Dew than syrup.

jhilkevitch@tribune.com

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