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Odd Jobs: De-icing Airplanes

Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-09 19:16:32-04

In the video above, reporter James Rolin continues his "Odd Jobs" series - this time, he learns what it takes to de-ice planes at the Great Falls International Airport.

    For anyone who has flown out of a wintery airport, plane deicing delays are a common thing to hear over the plane’s PA system. As you sit there wondering if you’ll make your next connection, however, there is a team out in the elements making sure that you arrive at all. At the Great Falls International Airport in Montana those folks come from Holman Aviation.

    I rode with Jeremy, VP of Operations for Holman Aviation, as he personally deiced a Delta plane operated by Skywest Airlines. It was a relatively warm day for February in Montana at about 20 degrees F, but with the wind kicking up and all the moisture from active snowfall it felt absolutely frigid! First Jeremy made sure that I had the proper safety gear: reflective vest, gloves, goggles, and a harness… we were going to be pretty high up at times. After waiting for the flight to taxi out, we went out to the deicing truck and got in the lift. The truck carries two different deicing fluids. Orange and sticky, Type 1 is hot at 140-180 degrees F and is used for melting the current ice off of the plane. Type 4 fluid is used to keep ice off after it has been melted. It’s pumped on cold and is green, being a slightly different propylene glycol mix. Combined, my camera was thoroughly deiced as well… even if it really didn’t need it. The wind simply kicked up the slurry of deicing fluid too much to be easily controlled.

    Jeremy has been doing this for a while and was an expert of the equipment. While he is typically in charge of planning operations he is certainly not scared to get his hand dirty! Speaking of hands… I could barely feel mine after about 15 minutes. I’m glad that I had the camera adequately strapped to my hand.

    Once we were done the operator lowered the lift and we drove back to Holman Aviation’s offices. That was an experience that I won’t soon forget and the next time that you find yourself waiting on the tarmac on a cold icy winter day, neither should you.