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How does the de-icing equipment work?

As with cars, streets and highways, planes also suffer the consequences of below-zero temperatures, snow and ice. But these adverse meteorological conditions do not prevent scheduled flights thanks to the de-icing equipment at the airport.

Iberia’s de-icing equipment includes trucks which are equipped with 5,000 litre tanks filled with a mixture of water and glycol, and a boiler with a burner which heats the mixture so that it leaves via the water cannon at 2 degrees centigrade. The trucks come installed with pumps that lift the water in a way that allows the liquid to exit with the necessary pressure when the operator opens the escape valve so that the liquid falls on the plane. This process manages to eliminate any remaining frost, ice, snow or frozen water on the planes so that the surfaces remain clean. An orange colouring agent is added to the mixture for easy confirmation of the correct application on the surfaces. The water melts the ice, frost or snow, while the glycol prevents their formation for a specific period of time.

The vertical and horizontal sides (wings and tail) are usually de-iced, along with the fuselage, the radome, the landing gear hatch and the stabilizers. However, with extreme climate conditions, the entire airplane must be de-iced. De-icing is performed at the request of the flight captain.

This process is performed by scrupulously applying the instructions from the airplane manufacturer’s manual, IATA regulations and ISO Standards, among others.

The time necessary for this process can last between three minutes and an hour and a half. Normally cleaning the airplane of ice or frost lasts between three and five minutes. This time can increase greatly if there is snow; there are times which may last up to an hour and a half.

In Madrid-Barajas there are two de-icing bases which operate 24 hours a day. These allow three planes to be cleaned at the same time in each base, in normal circumstances. At full performance, these platforms can de-ice more than 150 planes each in normal climatological conditions.

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