Ask the Captain: How does ice on the wing affect the way a plane flies?

I read your column about your scary icing incident. What are the mechanics of how ice on the wing affects the flight characteristics of a plane?

 – edeanf, Layton, Utah

Ice deforms the shape of the wing, resulting in less lift. It also adds weight to the airplane, further degrading the performance. 

In my case, the airplane had deicing boots designed to crack the ice off of the wing, but the ice built up over the boots, resulting in our inability to shed it. 

The propellers had heated strips to keep ice from forming, but as the ice left the propellers, some of it would hit the side of the airplane. This happened so frequently that it became almost a constant banging on the airplane. 

We had all the heat we could get muster on the windshield but could only see through a small slit. The rest of the windshield was covered in ice. As a result, the flight deck was extremely hot while the rest of the airplane was very cold. Our passengers were uncomfortable for much of the flight.

It was a very bad night. 

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