Types Of Aircraft Icing

Understanding Icing Pilot Getaways
Understanding Icing Pilot Getaways from pilotgetaways.com


Aircraft icing is a serious concern for pilots and can lead to hazardous flying conditions. It occurs when supercooled water droplets freeze upon contact with an aircraft’s surfaces, causing ice to accumulate. This ice formation can disrupt the flow of air over the wings, affect control surfaces, and increase the weight of the aircraft. In this article, we will explore the different types of aircraft icing and their potential impact on flight operations.

Clear Ice

Clear ice is the most common type of icing encountered by aircraft. It forms when large supercooled droplets freeze slowly on the aircraft’s surfaces. Clear ice is transparent and can be difficult to detect visually. It tends to accumulate on leading edges, such as the wings and tail, and can adversely affect the aerodynamic properties of the aircraft.

Rime Ice

Rime ice forms when small supercooled water droplets freeze rapidly on the aircraft’s surfaces. It has a rough, opaque appearance and is typically found on exposed surfaces, such as antennas and pitot tubes. Rime ice can disrupt airflow and cause inaccurate airspeed readings, leading to potential flight control issues.

Mixed Ice

Mixed ice is a combination of both clear and rime ice. It forms when an aircraft encounters different temperature and moisture conditions during flight. Mixed ice can pose a significant threat to flight safety as it can have varying characteristics, making it challenging to remove and affecting the aircraft’s performance.

Impact on Aircraft Performance

Aircraft icing can have a detrimental impact on the performance of an aircraft. The added weight from ice accumulation increases fuel consumption and reduces the aircraft’s range. The disrupted airflow over the wings and control surfaces can cause a decrease in lift, resulting in reduced maneuverability and increased stall speeds.

Effects on Instrumentation

Icing can also affect the accuracy of aircraft instrumentation. Ice formation on pitot tubes and static ports can lead to erroneous airspeed and altitude readings. This can be dangerous for pilots who rely on these instruments for navigation and control of the aircraft.

Preventive Measures

To mitigate the risks associated with aircraft icing, pilots are trained to recognize and avoid icing conditions. They can utilize weather reports and forecasts to identify areas with potential icing hazards. Additionally, aircraft are equipped with anti-icing systems, such as heated leading edges and de-icing boots, which help prevent or remove ice accumulation during flight.

In-Flight Procedures

If an aircraft encounters icing conditions during flight, pilots are trained to follow specific procedures to minimize the impact on aircraft performance. This may involve altering the flight path to avoid areas of known icing, activating anti-icing systems, and adjusting airspeeds to maintain safe flight conditions.


Aircraft icing is a significant concern for aviation safety, and pilots must be aware of the different types of icing and their effects on aircraft performance and instrumentation. By understanding these factors and following appropriate preventive measures and in-flight procedures, pilots can ensure safer flights and mitigate the risks associated with icing.