DeIcing is something passengers usually only think about when they’re sitting in a cramped jet watching big trucks spraying a strange liquid on their plane causing it to be delayed. But behind the scenes are a dedicated team of technicians who ensure that every flight leaves the airport as quickly as possible and safe from debris that could lead to…well, let’s just say an unpleasant flight experience.

No Snow Zone

It’s a warm, sunny September morning at the Portland International Jetport, and the Northeast Air Deicing Team is already springing into action. Two large deicing trucks swing around their target, moving into place to spray fluid. The boom and buckets on the trucks rise into the air, spray nozzles dripping and ready to fire. In a carefully choreographed ballet, the buckets glide over their target, getting within five feet of their spray zone. With great precision, the bucket operators pull their triggers and begin spraying.

Learning the Ropes

The Northeast Air Deicing Team isn’t treating a snow covered aircraft on this late summer morning. Instead, newly minted Team members and their veteran colleagues are training in the art and science of deicing, taking aim at an old luggage cart lined up to resemble the shape of an airliner. Each year, the Deicing Team begins their September training regimen in preparation for what will surely be a busy Maine winter.

By the time the first frost events roll around in late October, the DeIcing Team has already put in many hours of training, both in the classroom and in the field, ensuring that each member knows where to be, when to be there, and what to do. But why all this training? Isn’t it just a matter of spraying the plane down with that goo?

A Delicate Balance

Northeast Air’s DeIcing Team manager has the job of ensuring that not only does every Team member know exactly their role in clearing a plane, but also making sure that aircraft don’t wait in line to be deiced any longer than they have to. It’s a delicate ballet that—when done well—few people notice.

But that fine balance can be toppled instantly by the slightest of variables. If a plane departs the gate even a few minutes late, the delay gets amplified by the time it takes to also deice the plane. And the more ice and snow on the plane, the longer it will take. If a technician misses a spot, however small it may be, the Team has to reset and start the process over again. High quality training, attention to detail, and a flair for organization are essential.

Safety First

The safety of the aircraft, and all the passengers and flight crew on board, is top priority for the DeIcing Team. Ensuring that delays are kept to a minimum comes in a close second. Industry standards and FAA regulations all factor into the training our DeIcing Team members complete, and because there is little room for error, the Team starts training early each year. Even small bits of ice and snow greatly impact an aircraft’s ability to fly safely in bad weather. That’s why training is so important.

Of course, passengers on board the plane don’t know why they’re waiting on some concrete pad off to the side of the airport, just that they’re waiting. So the NEA DeIcing Team trains to be as efficient, as safety-minded, and as thorough as possible.

In our next post, we’ll learn about Northeast Air’s history of deicing at Portland International Jetport.