Delta adding 20 de-ic­ing trucks to fleet at air­port

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - BUSINESS - By Kelly Ya­manouchi kya­

Delta Air Lines is adding more de-ic­ing ve­hi­cles at Harts­field-Jack­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port, in a move to ease flight de­lays and can­cel­la­tions in the win­ter months.

At­lanta-based Delta is adding 20 new de-ic­ing trucks at the world’s busiest air­port, where it op­er­ates its largest hub.

Al­though snow is rare in At­lanta, when a storm hits that re­quires planes to be sprayed with de-ic­ing fluid to safely take off, it can dis­rupt flights and leave thou­sands of trav­el­ers stranded.

Delta typ­i­cally op­er­ates more than 800 daily de­par­tures out of Harts­field-Jack­son in the win­ter. But dur­ing icy con­di­tions when each plane needs to go through the pro­ce­dure be­fore de­part­ing, that can de­crease sig­nif­i­cantly.

Last Jan­uary, when a snow­storm hit At­lanta, icy con­di­tions caused Delta to can­cel 900 flights over two days. In the con­gested ter­mi­nal, trav­el­ers hop­ing to get out waited in hours­long se­cu­rity lines.

The air­line had 44 de-ic­ing trucks, which lift work­ers in buck­ets into the air to spray down planes with neon green or orange gly­col de-ic­ing fluid. A large plane can be de-iced by four trucks at a time.

Delta “is pre­pared for de-ic­ing from the fall through the spring,” said spokes­woman Lisa Heller­st­edt. De-ic­ing sea­son has al­ready started in Min­neapo­lis and in Den­ver.

At Harts­field-Jack­son, Delta has a core de-ic­ing group of 12 work­ers, and an­other 570 ground work­ers are also trained for de-ic­ing. The com­pany has two new de-ice sim­u­la­tors in an em­ployee train­ing room on Con­course B for work­ers to learn the tech­nique.

De-ic­ing spe­cial­ists from snowy Delta hubs in Min­neapo­lis and De­troit have helped train At­lanta de-icers. Dur­ing the worst storms, a “Go Team” of Delta de-ice work­ers from other air­ports also fly in to help at Harts­field-Jack­son, which the com­pany says can help re­duce the time it takes to spray down planes.

In ad­di­tion to orange de-ic­ing fluid, Delta also uses a thicker Type IV green anti-ice fluid in At­lanta. In eight other air­ports, the air­line is adding the Type IV fluid that can be sprayed onto a plane to pre­vent the build-up of ice.

That can re­duce frus­trat­ing can­cel­la­tions at busy air­ports where a plane goes for de-ic­ing, then waits in a long line of planes to take off, only to get more ice ac­cu­mu­lated on the wings. The buildup of ice on wings can dis­rupt the air flow around the wings and af­fect the aero­dy­nam­ics of a

plane, in­creas­ing drag and re­duc­ing lift.

In ad­di­tion to the new equip­ment, Delta says it will soon use a new sys­tem for its ground con­trollers to track the de-ic­ing process and mon­i­tor how long it takes. A plane cov­ered in a thick layer of ice after be­ing stuck overnight in a storm can take much longer to de-ice than a plane that’s only been in such con­di­tions for an hour or two lay­over be­tween flights.

Ex­tra de-ice trucks can’t pre­vent all de­lays and can­cel­la­tions. If the air­port typ­i­cally has some 120 flight de­par­tures an hour, it’s stilla chal­lenge to main­tain that out­put when ev­ery plane must be de-iced be­fore take­off.


Delta had 44 de-ic­ing trucks, which lift work­ers in buck­ets into the air to spray down planes with de-ic­ing fluid. A large plane can be de-iced by four trucks at a time.

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