My Week of Flying in the Ice

My trip up and down the middle of the United States in heart of winter got me in touch with the realities of ice and snow.

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On a recent trip I flew the depth of the country from Central Texas to Northern Minnesota, and along the way there was cloud and ice everywhere. It was a great lesson in the importance of preparation and a careful study of the conditions using all the tools at my disposal. (Text and Photography by Robert Goyer) Click here to also read my related blog about the trip.
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One of those tools is TKS. My Cirrus is equipped with this anti/de-icing solution. Its limits, however, are very real, and the risks associated with icing are just as real. In this case, the fluid, slung over the windshield by the prop, kept the light rime from forming on an unanticipated encounter.
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Cirrus also offers an approved (FIKI) version. It features a sprayer designed to keep ice from forming in the pilot's field of view. This airplane had just returned from a trip up through 4,000 feet of icy cloud and back down again. It returned with nearly an inch of mixed ice on the unprotected areas of the airplane. But the pilot could still see out for landing. Much of the ice seen here, let me point out, built up with the TKS system powered off, as the pilot was looking to see how fast the ice was forming. The answer: too fast for a non-protected airplane. On descent, the pilot reactivated the system, which shed much of the ice on the flying surfaces.
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Ice formed everywhere it could, including on the nose landing gear leg.
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Wheel pants also got their share of ice.
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The wingtips proved a good illustration of the effectiveness of the system. The protected section inboard is clear of ice, as is the section aft of it, while the unprotected wingtip is iced up.
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Just how it forms this way is a mystery to me, but the ice structures on the wingtips, prop and elsewhere were quite beautiful.
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The ice seems to like to form on junctions and intersections, though its hard to figure where it will form and why. This is why actual flight testing in icing conditions is such a big part of FIKI certification.
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On the tip of the horizontal, which is protected with TKS fluid, there was still a noticeable accretion of ice, though not as much as on the unprotected surfaces.
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The ice loved the leading edge of the flap hinges.
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The tips got a good deal of ice, as well.
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More ice along the tips.
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The prettiest and most mysterious ice formation was on the spinner, which formed tiny, forward facing structures, despite spinning at about 50 times per second.