Without exception, the formation of ice or frost on the surfaces of an airplane will cause a detrimental effect on aerodynamic performance. The ice or frost formation on the airplane sur­faces will alter the aerodynamic contours and affect the nature of the boundary layer. Of course, the most important surface of the air­plane is the wing and the formation of ice or frost can create significant changes in the aero­dynamic characteristics.


A large formation of ice on the leading edge of the wing can produce large changes in the local contours and severe local pressure gra­dients. The extreme surface roughness common to some forms of ice will cause high surface friction and a considerable reduction of bound­ary layer energy. As a result of these effects, the ice formation can produce considerable in­crease in drag and a large reduction in maxi­mum lift coefficient. Thus, the ice formation will cause an increase in power required and stall speed. In addition, the added weight of the ice formation on the airplane will provide an undesirable effect. Because of the detri­mental effects of ice formation, recommended anti-icing procedures must be followed to preserve the airplane performance.

The effect of frost is perhaps more subtle than the effect of ice formation on the aero­dynamic characteristics of the wing. The ac­cumulation of a hard coat of frost on the wing upper surface will provide a surface texture of considerable roughness. While the basic shape and aerodynamic contour is unchanged, the increase in surface roughness increases skin – friction and reduces the kinetic energy of the boundary layer. As a result, there will be an increase in drag but, of course, the magnitude of drag increase will not compare with the considerable increase due to a severe ice forma­tion. The reduction of boundary layer kinetic energy will cause incipient stalling of the wing,

i. e., separation will occur at angles of attack and lift coefficients lower than for the clean, smooth wing. While the reduction in due to frost formation ordinarily is not as great as that due to ice formation, it is usually un­expected because it may be thought that large changes in the aerodynamic shape (such as due to ice) are necessary to reduce CL. How­ever, the kinetic energy of the boundary layer is an important factor influencing separation of the airflow and this energy is reduced by an increase in surface roughness.

The general effects of ice and frost formation on the lift characteristics is typified by the il* lustration of figure 6.7.

The effect of ice or frost on takeoff and land­ing performance is of great importance. The effects are so detrimental to the landing and takeoff that no effort should be spared to keep the airplane as free as possible from any ac­cumulation of ice or frost. If any ice remains on the airplane as the landing phase approaches it must be appreciated that the ice formation will have reduced Ct and incurred an increase in stall speed. Thus, the landing speed will be greater. When this effect is coupled with the possibility of poor braking action during the landing roll, a critical situation can exist. It is obvious that great effort must be made to prevent the accumulation of ice during flight.

In no circumstances should a formation of ice or frost be allowed to remain on the airplane wing surfaces prior to takeoff. The undesir­able effects of ice are obvious but, as previously mentioned, the effects of frost are more subtle. If a heavy coat of hard frost exists on the wing upper surface, a typical reduction in CL would cause a 5 to 10 percent increase in the airplane stall speed. Because of this magnitude of effect, the effect of frost on takeoff per­formance may not be realized until too late. The takeoff speed of an airplane is generally some speed 5 to 25 percent greater than the stall speed, hence the takeoff lift coefficient will be value from 90 to 65 percent of. Thus, it is possible that the airplane with frost cannot become airborne at the specified take­off speed because of premature stalling. Even if the airplane with frost were to become air­borne at the specified takeoff speed, the air­plane could have insufficient margin of air­speed above stall and turbulence, gusts, turning flight could produce incipient or con plete stalling of the airplane.

The increase in drag during takeoff roll due to frost or ice is not considerable and there will not be any significant effect on the initial acceleration during takeoff. Thus, the effect of frost or ice will be most apparent during the later portions of takeoff if the airplane is un­able to become airborne or if insufficient margin above stall speed prevents successful initial climb. In no circumstances should a formation of ice or frost be allowed to remain on the air­plane wing surfaces prior to takeoff.

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