Colder Weather Means Deicing and the Return of Aircraft Exterior Wash

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on flight operations around the world. Airlines are now implementing disinfecting/fogging programs to establish a benchmark of health safety while communicating the safety of travel to an increasing number of air travel passengers.

As the seasons shift and the climate gets colder in the North, airlines must now begin planning for de-icing programs and the required exterior wash programs that maintain this treatment as a safer operation. One issue that most domestic carriers must address is that most exterior wash programs have been suspended as a function of decreased spending due to lower passenger traffic during the pandemic. It may not seem like Winter should be a time for increased exterior wash, but because of Winter operations and de-icing, it becomes more important.

When asked about exterior wash in Winter, Brian Giacona, vice president of operations for AccuFleet International said, “While many people might think that exterior wash is to make a plane look nice, like a car wash, what few realize is that it actually serves the function of removing other residues from the aircraft such as oil, hydraulic fluid and de-icing fluid to make aircraft more fuel-efficient and enable them to fly safely.”

Per the FAA standardized ground deice program guidance, “all surfaces that have an aerodynamic-, control-, sensing-, movement- or measuring-function must be clean. All of these surfaces can not necessarily be cleaned and protected in the same conventional deicing/anti-icing manner as e.g. the wings. Some areas require only a cleaning operation while others need protection against freezing.”

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority further iterates that:
The repeated application of Type II, Type III or Type IV anti-icing fluid may cause residues to collect in aerodynamic quiet areas, cavities, and gaps. These residues may rehydrate and freeze under certain temperature changes, in high humidity and/or rain conditions. In addition, they may block or impede critical flight control systems.
An appropriate inspection and cleaning program should be established when using these types of fluids

Glycol buildup decreases fuel efficiency and often changes the color of an airline’s livery.

With repeated treatments for routes with regular travel into wintery conditions, exterior wash programs are required not only to maintain a clean brand image for the airline, but also to ensure safe operation by removing accumulated glycol, ice, snow, and slush from active areas of the aircraft which must remain clean for optimal performance.

So this Winter, fly with the knowledge that the aviation industry is keeping aircraft clean both inside and out.

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