Plane deicing

At Toronto Pearson, we have the largest and most technologically advanced central deicing facility (CDF) in the world. The CDF can process up to 500 aircraft in a single day, keeping aircraft flying safely in any winter weather.

With 180 staff and 46 deicing units, the CDF at Toronto Pearson is a 24/7 operation that communicates with pilots, equipment operators and air traffic controllers to service aircraft as quickly as possible.

Why we need to deice planes

A plane's wings and rear tail component are engineered with a very specific shape in order to provide proper lift for flight. Snow and ice on these areas changes their shape and disrupts 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 deiced

After the aircraft pushes back from the gate, air traffic controllers guide the plane to the CDF, where Deicing Movement Coordinators (DMCs) take over aircraft guidance. The plane will be assigned to one of our six deicing pads, where multiple deicing units will converge to 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 telescoping spray arm to clean the aircraft with a glycol-based fluid. When the deicing treatment is done, the pilot taxies the aircraft away from the deicing pad and to the runway.

The deicing spray

We use two different kinds of glycol-based fluid in our deicing process — Type 1 and Type 4. The active ingredient, glycol, is critical because, when heated, it holds onto that warmth, protecting the surface of the aircraft and melting away ice or snow.

  • Type 1 fluid is a heated mixture of glycol and water. It’s easily identified by its orange colour. The heated mixture breaks the bond between frost, ice or snow and the wings of your aircraft. It is sprayed with force to knock the snow and ice off the plane.
  • Type 4 anti-icing fluid is applied to stop new ice or snow from sticking to your wings, especially if it is currently snowing. This fluid is bright green and isn’t heated before being applied.

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.

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