Deicing simulator improves training, saves AF millions of dollars

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
When the nights gets colder and the days begins to shorten, winter is on its way. With the winter season comes the arrival of snow, ice, frost, negative wind chills and aircraft deicing.

Aircraft deicing involves a team of 20 to 40 Airmen operating deicing trucks on the flightline removing snow, frost and ice from aircraft in order to make the planes safe for flight. Deicing an aircraft can be time consuming, expensive and difficult for new Airmen. Tech. Sgt. David Lamb, 92nd Maintenance Group development and instructor NCO in charge, with the help of others, spearheaded a movement to potentially save the Air Force millions of dollars.

Lamb contacted a deicing truck manufacturer and inquired about a deicing simulator. This simulator runs using a computer, two joysticks, a television and operates like a video game. The setup imitates the inside of a deicing cab and allows Airmen hands-on training any time of year that costs a fraction of what it would to use real equipment and deicing fluid. In addition to the cost savings, the simulator also drastically reduces any environmental impact deicing operations may have.

According to the 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Fairchild used 38,296 gallons of deicing fluid in 2014. Deicing fluid costs Fairchild on average $422,000 a year, depending on the price of deicing fluid and the amount used. Currently, the cost of deicing fluid averages $11 per gallon.

"For cold weather bases like Fairchild, the deicing simulator is extremely beneficial," Lamb said. "It allows maintenance more practice time in the off season to spray a snowy aircraft. It also gives new Airmen coming in something to be familiar with."

The deicing simulator has had such a positive effect at Fairchild that in the month of December representatives from a regional airline visited the base inquiring about the operation of the simulator and the effects it has had on training, operations and cost savings. The 92nd MXG hosted the airline team in order to provide a demonstration of the innovative and money-saving equipment in a non-competitive environment with commercial counterparts.

Previously, Airmen trained using deicing equipment, causing major wear and tear on hydraulic equipment. During training, deicing trucks would be filled with water to give Airmen a realistic practice. Using water to train created more ice to be removed, increasing the amount of deicing fluid utilized. This practice also caused numerous other problems the deicing simulator prevents, including equipment damage and placing Airmen, with little to no deicing experience, near actual aircraft.

"[The simulator] gives Airmen an idea of what they're doing before they do it," said Tech. Sgt. William Taylor, 92nd MXG communication and navigation systems instructor. "Over time, the movement of hydraulic items causes wear and tear. Deicers are needed to fly aircraft; if we don't have operational deicers, aircraft can't fly."

Not only has the simulator saved the Air Force potentially millions of dollars on deicing fluid, prevented potential aircraft damage and deicing equipment repairs, it has also made Airmen more comfortable while deicing aircraft and created a drastic reduction in the amount of late takeoffs, added Taylor.

There are multiple ways to deice an aircraft, but proper training in the simulator allows Airmen to learn the most effective methods. When using fluid injection, the deicer utilizes approximately 60 to 90 gallons of deicing fluid per-minute. Forced air fluid injection mixes deicing fluid with hot air, which utilizes approximately a quarter-of-a-gallon of deicing fluid per- minute. Proper training results in roughly 99 percent reduction in deicing fluid each time an aircraft is deiced.

"The simulator provides a safe way to train on deicing for the trainee and the aircraft," said Senior Airman Migel Segoviano, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron instrument flight control specialist. "A trainee can learn where and how to properly spray an aircraft without risk of damaging fragile panels and flight controls."

Maintenance Airmen take an annual full-day deicer class. This 8-hour block of instruction includes review of technical orders and basics of using the deicing equipment. Following the morning in the classroom, Airmen visit a deicing truck to familiarize themselves with the inside of a deicing truck and cab. Finally, Airmen use the deicing simulator to deice an entire aircraft and familiarize themselves with controls and the most effective ways of deicing an aircraft.

The deicing simulator has helped trainees learn in a quick and safe environment and has improved the overall training immensely, concluded Segoviano.