How aircraft deal with the dangers of snow and ice

As winter sets in, snow and ice become a regular part of aviation. Whilst it may look great in your Instagram photos, icy conditions can cause some serious headaches for airlines and airports.

Why ice and aviation don’t mix

Aircraft fly not because of the engines, but because of the lift generated by the wings. The engines merely provide the forward propulsion to create that lift. As the aircraft accelerates down the runway, the airflow over the wing increases. When this airflow reaches a critical point, enough lift is generated by the wings to enable the aircraft to leave the ground and start climbing up into the air.

For every takeoff, we calculate the exact engine power and speeds required to lift off safely. When we hit the takeoff speed, known as Vr, we pull back on the stick and the aircraft eases into the air. However, these speeds are based on a “clean wing”, one free from any contamination from snow or ice.

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