Aircraft with a cold shoulder

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher R. Morales
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
If driving in snow is a hassle, imagine flying. Instead of every turn being a skidding accident waiting to happen, blocky wings couldn't get the right lift and flying straight would be an impossible task.

While the roads and parking lots on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have snow plows clearing the way, global ground-support aircraft deicers clear aircraft for the skies.

"Snow and ice can accumulate on the wings and severely affect aircraft performance and our ability to accomplish the mission," said Capt. Michael Hayes, a 525th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation officer. "Deicing allows aircraft to continue to operate despite the harsh Alaska winters."

Aircraft aerodynamics are paramount to proper flight, and heavy layers of snow, ice and frost can weigh the aircraft down, freeze the flaps' movement and disrupt the airflow providing lift. The combined efforts of contracted truck drivers and deicer-qualified Airmen with deicing and anti-icing capabilities prevent those problems and more.

"Deicing basically removes all the snow, ice, frost -- everything from the aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Paul Lampe Jr., the 3rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft deicing NCO in charge. "The anti-ice (solution) is used right before takeoff so, as it is taxiing down the runway, it doesn't refreeze before it gets off the ground."

There are two types of deicing machines available on base to fit the need of any size aircraft. The standard GL-1800 deicer works on regular aircraft. The extended-reach deicer can cope with taller aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III, Lampe said.

"Basically, we deice anything that comes en route as far as C-5 (Galaxy), C-135 (Stratolifter) and C-17," Lampe said. "We (also) do transport aircraft like C-12 (Huron) and C-40(B/C) to C-130 (Hercules)."

To plan a deicing, the flightline schedule is passed down to deicing NCO in charge, who plans accordingly.

"Depending on the aircraft and weather, usually (deicing is) real quick, from 30 minutes to a couple of hours," Lampe said.

Weather is a primary factor when deicing. If it snows 4 inches overnight, or slush freezes into a thick layer of ice on an aircraft, there is work to be done. The time it takes to finish the job depends of the size of the aircraft and the current weather, such as if it's still snowing.

The deicing program runs from October to April or whenever the snow falls.