Written By Julian Tonsmeire
Now that summer has fled with those awful hot days and we are looking for our first frosty Colorado front-range morning, let’s look at some of the things Mountain Aviation Crews are beginning to review, for a winter trip.
The crew always checks the aircraft for all the items that will melt or shed snow and ice. The pitot tube (air intake) for the airspeed indicator must be free from debris and heat up as well, in flight. The stall indicator must also heat up, as well as the jets’ wing leading edges. The King air must have serviceable boots on the leading edge that blow up and shed ice. Sometimes passengers may see this occurring. The pilot’s windshield must also heat up during flight, to keep ice off.
All these items are checked, before any flight, even on dry days, because at altitude, it’s always cold and may be icy if we are in a cloud.
Now on cloudy, snowy days, the crew may load the passengers up and know they will not get to the end of the runway, before the wings and tail become loaded with new snow. Mountain Aviation crews may not depart with any snow or ice adhering to any aircraft surface. In this case, the crew will return to the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) and request a de-ice procedure, just like the large airline aircraft do. The aircraft goes to a de-icing pad, away from the local ramp, shuts down the engines, and with passengers onboard, will receive the de-ice fluid from a truck with a large boom, and dry/ warm driver, and a very wet/ cold spray operator atop the boom.
This fluid is a mixture of Glycol and very hot water that is sprayed under pressure, on the aircraft’s surface, including wings and tail. This process will melt the existing snow and ice and because it is very sticky and greasy looking, and will adhere to the aircraft long enough to be able to taxi to the runway and take off. Once in the air, all the previous items I mentioned having to be operational, take over to keep the aircraft clear of ice and snow.
In all operations, safety is paramount, but winter ice and snow is particularly dangerous for proper aircraft lift and performance. Your crew may delay a departure for just these reasons. We all want to arrive at the destination, safe, sound and happy. Happy winter-time flying all!