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KC-135 Iced Wings  
User currently offlinePanAmerican From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 384 posts, RR: 4
Posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 3452 times:

What do you think of this:

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Photo © Thomas Urbild

I know ice-related questions are brought up here often but I have never seen such massive icing under a wing of a plane...
Isn't there normally a heating system that prevents ice from building up? Or is this how it used to be on older planes? ? After all this KC-135 is about 44 years old... Would there also be a layer of ice on top of the wing surface
What about the aerodynamics, are they not influenced a lot but a thick layer of ice on the wings?
Thanks for any explanation you might have.

 Smile/happy/getting dizzy PA

Pan Am - The World's Most Experienced Airline.
9 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineAir2gxs From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 3432 times:

That appears to be massive icing, but is probably just a real thin layer of frost. Very common on aircraft that have just landed. You can tell that it is a very thin layer because you can clearly see the outline and impressions of the tanl access plates and other fasteners on the wing lower surface.

As to the aerodynamics: I believe that the there is an almost negligible affect on performance. If I remember my basic aerodymanics, frost on the upper surface causes a whole lot more problems than on the lower surface.

User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 30414 posts, RR: 57
Reply 2, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 3388 times:

Thats normal.

Moisture in the air freezing to the supercooled fuel in the wing from altitude.

At one place I worked we where allowed 1/4 inch of buildup, at another airline the ops-specs allowed 3/8ths of an inch.

User currently offlineGreasespot From Canada, joined Apr 2004, 3104 posts, RR: 19
Reply 3, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 3377 times:

When an airplane flies for a few hours at altitude and you dump warmer fuel and the air is humid you get frost forming under the wings....That is normal....And as far as I know there really is no way to get rid of it...it does not affect the wing when it is under like that.

the same thing can happen when you have a warm airplane (like in a hanger) and you take it out on a cold winter day and pour cold fuel into the tanks


Oh yeah...it can happen to ANY airplane.....there is nothing that prevents it.....they do not even de-ice under the wing when they have to go for de-iceing

[Edited 2004-05-09 15:26:04]

Sometimes all you can do is look them in the eye and ask " how much did your mom drink when she was pregnant with you?"
User currently offlinePanAmerican From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 384 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 3346 times:

Ok, thanks for the replies. That was interesting. Never seen it before. You're right though, it's probably a rather thin layer.

 Smile/happy/getting dizzy PA

Pan Am - The World's Most Experienced Airline.
User currently offlineQantasA332 From Australia, joined Dec 2003, 1500 posts, RR: 22
Reply 5, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 3255 times:

If the ice isn't that thick and if it's fairly uniform, aerodynamics isn't a huge concern. As soon as it becomes quite thick or very irregular in its distribution, there can be problems in those terms...


User currently offlineCitationJet From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 2627 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (12 years 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 3246 times:

I remember touching the wing of a business jet that had just landed after a flight at high altitude. The wing was cold to the touch, and it was a rather warm day.

Boeing Flown: 701,702,703;717;720;721,722;731,732,733,734,735,737,738,739;741,742,743,744,747SP;752,753;762,763;772,773.
User currently offlineHa763 From United States of America, joined Jan 2003, 3739 posts, RR: 5
Reply 7, posted (12 years 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 3206 times:
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I see this everyday I work on the ramp. It isn't very thick and if I could reach the wings, I could wipe it off. It also melts quite quickly, at least here in Hawaii. I always get dripped on when I walk under the wings.

User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 8, posted (12 years 3 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3173 times:

Just thought I’d confirm that ice on the underside of the wing isn’t a major concern. That’s not where the lift is generated and that’s not where you’ll get separated flow (stall). That’s also why you’ll have flap hinges and all that junk hanging below the wing rather than protruding out of the top surface.

The really bad ice is the kind that forms on the leading edges. If the LE de-ice/anti-ice is out of order, the buildup can take shocking proportions. The ice models used for certification flights are scary things. It is hard to imagine the aircraft flying with those mounted on the wings... but they do, which makes me feel better up there.  Smile

Then, you can have run back ice, when ice melts on the leading edge and flows back over the wing to freeze again on the top surface. Not good at all.


I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17668 posts, RR: 65
Reply 9, posted (12 years 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 3021 times:

About warm days and icing:

A couple of years ago a glider pilot was flying on Gotland (an island in the Baltic) in the middle of summer. In fact it turned out to be the hottest day of the year, so over 30 celsius. He had a close encounter with a thunderstorm and ended up way higher than he had intended.

On this hottest day, he had to be treated for frostbite. It can get that cold up there.

If you dig, there is an interesting article on Boeing's website about the calculations needed to fly over the Arctic. Quite a bit of fuel shuffling to keep the fuel (and thus the wings) "warm".

"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
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