Why we need to deice planesAn aircraft’s wings and tail are built with a very specific aerodynamic shape in order to provide proper lift for flight. Snow and ice on these areas change the wings’ shape and disrupt the airflow across critical surfaces. Even the smallest amounts of snow or ice on an aircraft can affect its ability to generate lift or to maintain control in flight.
How planes are deicedAfter you’ve boarded and are comfortably in your seat, the aircraft pushes back from the gate and makes a stop at the CDF before heading to the runway. The plane will be assigned to one of our six deicing pads, where multiple deicing trucks will converge and begin spraying the aircraft.
Each truck is driven by a Deicing Specialist who sits in an elevated cab so that he or she can guide a spray arm to clean the aircraft with a glycol-based fluid. We use glycol because when heated, it holds onto that warmth and protects the critical surfaces while melting away ice or snow.
The deicing spray
There are two types of glycol used:
- Type 1 is a mix of glycol and water and has a distinctive orange colour. This mixture breaks the bond between frost, ice or snow and the wings of the plane. It’s sprayed with force to knock the snow and ice off the plane.
- Type 4 is an anti-icing fluid that stops new ice or snow from sticking to the plane, especially when it’s still snowing. This fluid is bright green in colour.
Once the deicing treatment is done, the pilot taxies the aircraft away from the deicing pad and to the runway for take-off.
What happens to the used deicing fluid
Each deicing pad is sloped from north to south, which allows the used glycol spray to run directly into special drains which connect to any one of the CDF’s massive underground storage tanks.
The tanks have a combined volume of 15 million litres. The contents of these tanks are measured, tested and recycled for use in other markets, all to keep any glycol run-off from impacting the natural environment.