There’s no such thing as a little ice

June 18, 2015

Charter aircraft and private planes typically have one of two options for anti-icing. It can be applied inside the hangar or aircraft can head to the airport deicing pad and pay thousands for it. One option is costly; the other can be unsafe.

“A lot of operators are doing this [anti-icing] behind closed doors,” says Walter Randa, CEO of Leading Edge Deicing Specialists and Wing Armor. “They have the wrong understanding that they can put the fluid on and push the airplane out at any time. The reality is that as soon as the first drop hits the airplane, you’ve got a countdown going on. And by the time they push the airplane out the stuff on the wings already may be expired or have experienced evaporation.”

Randa shares a few horror stories he’s seen as a consultant with Leading Edge and an instructor of aircraft deicing and winter operations since 1992. In this capacity he’s worked with teams operating corporate jets for companies like Victoria’s Secret, Walmart, IBM, Kodak and Pepsi Co.

When anti-icing fluid is applied in the hangar, Randa has found crews pay little attention to timetables that compare temperature and weather conditions to determine how long the application will last. “This past winter we had a company spray an airplane at Midnight for a 6:30 a.m. departure,” he says. “By morning that fluid had evaporated.”

In another case, crews, using a homemade spray system, doused an aircraft with far less than the 27 gallons of fluid required to adequately cover it. In this case, the ground crew had only sprayed four gallons on the entire aircraft, according to Randa. The insufficient amount of fluid caused the flight crew to experience a temporary loss of control in flight after takeoff.

Workers also fail to check anti-icing fluid’s viscosity before it is applied, says Randa. “It could be that the fluid has sheared to the point where it’s not even going to do what it’s supposed to do,” he says.

And then there’s the fact that ground crews are often using home-built anti-icing units that they cobbled together on their own, and these units often have trouble spraying fluid evenly and efficiently. “One of my customers had a Gulfstream G650 and it was taking them an hour and 15 minutes to put fluid on one aircraft. The fluid was only good for an hour, so by the time someone pushed the aircraft outside, the fluid on the wings had already expired,” he says.

These home-grown anti-icing systems also lack meters to tell ground crews how much fluid they are spraying on the wings. “These guys are shooting from the hips and taking a guess at what’s going on,” he says. “They are guesstimating that they put enough on. The fluid quantities between the left and right wing should be within 10 percent. The consequence or result of not doing this can be asymmetrical lift.”

It is these stories, and a request from a client, who asked if Randa knew of a manufacturer who produced a portable anti-icing unit, that led to a Leading Edge innovation that allows ground crews to apply anti-icing fluid to very large corporate jets (those with up to 150 foot wingspans) in the hangar, avoiding the deicing pad at the airport altogether, reducing fluid application waste, and ensuring a safe flight.

“Now they can go straight to the runway, avoiding all the line ups and the deicing pad, and avoiding the average cost of $10,000 to $15,000 to spray a business jet the size of a Gulfstream 650,” Randa says of the Type IV anti-ice spray system Leading Edge developed.

 Push for a Prototype

Before beginning work on the Wing Armor anti-icing system, Randa did his homework. He went to visit a company that had fashioned together its own anti-icing unit, and asked users what they liked and disliked about the unit, and what features they still needed.

“I basically built a prototype based on everything they said they didn’t like,” he says.

Randa tweaked the product many times during development. For instance, he initially designed it with a 30-gallon tank but he eventually increased the tank size to 60 gallons when he realized a Gulfstream G650 could use more than 50 gallons of anti-icing fluid. Randa also decided to use stainless steel for the tank so the fluid could remain safely in the tank without degradation. The rest of the product is constructed of high-grade aircraft aluminum and comes with a 5-year warranty, though it will likely remain in use much longer.

Wing Armor Operation

Typically operations perform a deicing and then an anti-icing application on an aircraft. If there’s time, the aircraft deices on its own in the hangar. If not, ground crews use trucks to apply Type 1 deicing fluid via nozzles that pump $2,000-$3,000 of fluid per minute. They then follow this with an application of Type IV anti-icing fluid. 

It’s important to distinguish that the Wing Armor system is designed for anti-icing not deicing. It does not include a fluid heater, says Randa. The unit’s sprayer dispenses the appropriate amount of Type IV fluid, after the aircraft has been deiced.

The Wing Armor system tracks the amount of fluid dispensed to prevent over-spray, which also saves money. The $65,000 Wing Armor sprayer can treat a G650 with about $300 worth of fluid in 15 minutes, according to Randa. The Wing Armor spray system includes 240-gallons of Type IV anti-icing fluid, initial training on-site and recurrent training online.

Two TURBO XL Digital Meters on the unit accurately measure the anti-icing fluid sprayed from each gun. The pressurized system applies fluid with dual application guns with dual meters, ensuring even application on both wings and allowing crews to spray both wings simultaneously. This is possible through the unit’s reliable Eagle compressor which produces enough force to treat both wings at the same time. “You could even have one mechanic spraying one wing, and another spraying the other wing, and the application would be the same on both sides,” Randa says. “There is nothing out there right now that has any of these features.”

The Wing Armor system offers a low profile that enables it to fit underneath the wings of most business jets. The unit, which weighs less than 1,000 pounds when full of fluid, also features a tow bar so that it can be hooked up to a tug and moved around. A vertical lock stows the tow bar when it’s not in use. Its large tubeless tires make it easy for operators to maneuver the cart inside a hangar. The system’s wide 2-inch filler neck accepts large filling hoses, and a brass ball valve provides extra safety when the filler cap needs to be removed.

The rust-free, 60-gallon stainless-steel tank protects anti-icing fluid from any degradation and is compatible with all fluid types (II, III and IV).

Randa prides himself on how user-friendly and intuitive the system is to use. “The control panel on the unit makes it so simple to use,” he says. “There is an on-off switch, a toggle switch that determines the spray mode, and an emergency stop button. There are also two pressure gauges on the panel that show the operator at a glance that the system is functioning properly.”

Randa sees two major markets for the Wing Armor system: FBOs and corporate operators with their own hangars. The main thing the Wing Armor provides is convenience, safety, efficiency and cost savings, all things FBOs and corporate operators can use.

BIO: Walter Randa, founder of Leading Edge Deicing Specialists, is a graduate of Aviation High School in Long Island City. He also attended courses at the Academy of Aeronautics at LaGuardia Airport. Randa spent the last 31 years in airline operations. In 1992, Randa began his career in ramp air operations and as a safety trainer for UPS in Montreal, Canada, once he was certified to deicing. The move north gave Randa an introduction to Canada’s cold winters and aircraft de/anti-icing. Randa has specialized in providing Aircraft Surface Contamination training to ground crews since 1992 and created a program for flight crews in 1997. Randa is an accredited IS-BAO auditor and a member of the SAE G-12 Aircraft Ground Deicing committee. Randa’s passion is flying and he holds a commercial, multi-engine and instrument rating from the Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach, Fla.

About the Author

Walter Randa | president