How Delta Air Lines deices planes during the busy winter season

Delta takes its deicing process seriously. Photo: Delta Air Lines. 

Delta takes its deicing process seriously. Photo: Delta Air Lines. 

Did you know that in 2014, Delta's Minneapolis operation used about 900,000 gallons of deicing fluid at a cost of roughly $5.5 million?

I learned that this week from an interesting article on deicing on Delta's newshub, the airline's newsy website devoted to all things Delta. In Minneapolis, the story says, Delta has more than 200 ground workers on the deicing team and about 28 vehicles. (Larger planes can require up to four deicing trucks.) Every summer, Delta says, the workers must be retained on proper procedures. 

Interestingly, according to Delta, workers start inspecting planes when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

When temperatures dip below 50 degrees (at MSP that’s usually in early October), daily morning inspections begin on each aircraft. Anytime a so-called “contaminant” such as frost is spotted on surfaces that would inhibit the ability to create lift, the aircraft must undergo the de-icing process.

Have you ever wondered why you don't smell the fluid in the cabin? The story has the answer to that question.

During the de-icing/anti-icing process, pilots configure the aircraft by putting down the flaps and temporarily disabling the aircraft’s ventilation system to prevent the sweet scent of glycol from entering the passenger cabin.

Deicing is not something I think of a lot here in Los Angeles, but it's important to airlines. They want to do it safely and quickly. If you want to learn more about the process, you should read Delta's story. 

If you're looking for a non-airline perspective on deicing, try journalist's Paul Thompson's Jalopnik piece from the last year. Paul does a nice job of explaining why deicing is so necessary. "A build up of ice or snow on these surfaces not only adds extra weight, but most importantly, it also disrupts the flow of air, which reduces lift," he writes. "It can also disrupt the movement of the wings' flaps and ailerons."