AIRPORT WINTER OPERATIONS… Managing Slippery Runways, Taxiways & Ramps At GA Airports

by Pete Vercouteren
Copyright 2020. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine (online) – December 2020/January 2021 issue

Winter operations at general aviation (GA) airports can cause many challenges compared to the larger commercial airports. The challenges include availability of operations personnel, training, equipment, and budget. While many GA airports can simply shut down due to slippery runway conditions, those that accommodate corporate aircraft do not have that option.

Proper management of snow and ice at airports is essential for on-time winter operations. This is true for aircraft safety and the people moving within airside areas. Delays and employee injuries resulting from ineffective snow and ice control can cost airports and their customers precious time and revenues.

Equipment is the first consideration in controlling slippery conditions. Effective plows and especially mechanical brooms are essential to keeping surfaces clean and safe. Mechanical means also reduce the amount of chemical needed for control. Mechanical removal is typically preferred at low temperatures, below 15 degrees Fahrenheit,

Costs can be contained by using equipment that is already available or which can be easily and inexpensively converted, such as a grain drill, or converted agricultural sprayer.

when snow is dry and does not bond to the surface.

When plows and brooms are not sufficient, chemical deicers must be used.

The use of chemical deicers is regulated by SAE AMS 1431 for solid materials and SAE AMS 1435 for liquids. To meet these certification standards, the deicers

must pass airframe material compatibility, corrosion, storage stability, concrete, paint, and other standards. Further, suppliers must be able to supply proof of certification for their runway deicing products. When the product is received, it must include the SDS info, as well as the Certificate of Analysis (to verify that it meets the standards).

When deciding what chemical deicer(s) to use, one of the first considerations should be whether to be “proactive” (anti-icing) or “reactive” (de-icing). Liquid deicers are typically used as a “proactive” measure. They are applied before frost, ice, or snow accumulates. This technique requires less product to be used as it prevents frozen deposits from adhering to the surface and allows the remaining snow and ice to be removed easily with plows and brooms.

The first anti-icing application is made just before the event starts and again as needed during the storm (following mechanical removal to prevent bonding).

GA airports that The Green Earth Deicer Company works with prefer to use Cryotech E36® Liquid Runway Deicer (LRD) as an anti-icer, because of its ease of storage, ability to accurately apply the material, and cost. This clear liquid doesn’t settle, is very cost effective, and works at low temperatures. Its freezing point is -76 degrees Fahrenheit and throughout its temperature range, it flows like water. Cryotech E36 LRD can take a lot of dilution before it refreezes. It can be stored in the spray equipment without causing corrosion.

Personnel or conditions may dictate that airports use a “reactive” approach. Solid material is generally used in this approach. If there is a strong bond between the snow/ice pack and the surface, solid material will be more effective. Other important considerations in determining whether to use liquid or solid materials include pavement temperatures and current and forecast weather conditions. These conditions would include air temperature, winds, potential snow, sleet, or freezing rain.

Cryotech NAAC® Solid Runway Deicer (SRD) is preferred at the GA airports The Green Earth Deicer Company works with due to the application equipment or personal preference. NAAC is especially effective after a freezing rain or sleet event when there is ice bonded to the surface.

Sand and urea are two other commonly used solids. Sand may cause friction levels to improve in the short term; however, it has little long-term value in an on-going storm. There is also the concern of damage to propellers, brakes, and ingestion into airplane engines, as well as associated clean-up costs.

Urea has an effective working temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is not effective at cold temperatures. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates urea due to its damaging environmental effect. When using urea, be sure to obtain the required certification papers, since agricultural urea (Nitrogen Fertilizer) does not meet the standards for runway use. Its corrosive properties have caused landing gear to become brittle and fail.

Cryotech E36 and Cryotech NAAC meet the SAE AMS standards mentioned above. Their ability to work at low temperatures, and also their safety to aircraft, equipment, personnel, and the environment, make them the product of choice. These acetate deicers biodegrade and thus have little or no environmental impact.

Costs can be contained at GA airports by treating only 15 to 20 feet on either side of the centerline, and only in critical areas of taxiways, such as turns and hold short areas. There is no need to treat the entire width of runways or taxiways, only the areas that would affect braking or steering control.

Costs can also be contained by the use of equipment that is already available or can be easily and inexpensively converted. Most airports have dry spreading equipment. A grain drill is an innovative way that the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin airport is accurately applying NAAC. It is pulled by a pickup truck. Some GA airports are applying E36 LRD using a converted agricultural sprayer. A sprayer installed in the back of a pickup truck works too, and this is the equipment used at the DeKalb, Illinois airport. All of these delivery methods have proven to be very effective.

The management of ice conditions can be made easy with the proper tools and training. To maintain safe operation areas and keep GA airports open during trying winter weather conditions, choose the proper equipment and chemicals, and choose a supplier that offers training and support, not just the lowest price. The cost does not have to be prohibitive.

Managing Non-Airside Areas

Ice control can be made easy, safe, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly using our Green Earth Ice melter. This long-lasting granular product comes in a variety of package sizes, that include shaker bottles, cardboard boxes, 50# bags, 1-ton super sacks, and bulk. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Vercouteren is past president and serves as technical advisor to The Green Earth Deicer Company in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The company specializes in training, supplying product, and advising GA airports on the best equipment solutions for them. Vercouteren has a Master of Science Degree in Chemistry. His thesis dealt with deicers. A private pilot since 1984, Vercouteren has Instrument and Single and Multi-Engine Land Ratings. The Green Earth Deicer Company has been representing Cryotech for more than 30 years. For additional information call Pete @ 414-379-0601 or Tom Otte @ 920-948-4635.

This entry was posted in Airports, December 2020/January 2021, Features, Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.