Ice in flight is bad news for any pilot. Airframe Icing can lead to reduced performance, loss of lift, and ultimately, stall and loss of control of the aircraft.
An aircraft’s wing has been designed to exacting aerodynamic standards to create lift and reduce drag. Serious icing occurs when the aircraft is flying near the top of the cold air mass beneath a deep layer of warm air. Because ice accumulation significantly affects the shape of the aerofoil, it can reduce lift. The greater the ice accumulation, the greater the loss of lift. Ice also disrupts the flow of air over the airframe, creating drag. Or more accurately, parasite drag. This is a force that opposes the aircraft’s flight path and dramatically affects its performance.
Significant ice buildup can also increase the weight of the aircraft. This may not seem so bad, but to counteract this extra weight, pilots have to increase lift. But ice on the airframe has the effect of reducing lift. With an increase in weight, your performance starts to dramatically decrease and you could even be put outside of weight and balance limitations. The combination of these effects increases the stall speed of an aircraft and reduces its stability.
Ice collects on and seriously hampers the function of not only wings, but on control surfaces static vents, carburetors and air intakes and aircraft instruments. So in icing conditions, be aware of instruments that rely on these vents and ports for accurate readings. Additional problems can be encountered when ice develops around and over the control surfaces. If ice forms, not only can the control surface be covered, but also the gaps between the control surfaces. This leads to control jam, which is a significant hazard to a pilot.
Aircraft icing is the major weather hazard of aviation. The best way to deal with icing is to avoid it completely by checking for icing conditions in the planning phase of the flight.
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