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  • The Future Looks Bright for IR Plane Deicer

Photonics Spectra
May 1997
R. Winn Hardin

While the FAA does not have a strict approval process like the US Food and Drug Administration, Process Technologies Vice President Tim Seel said working with the government has paid off in global interest. In 1995, the company entered a cooperative agreement with the FAA to create an environmentally safe deicing system that does not rely on hazardous chemicals such as glycol.
In March, Process Technologies and system-operator Prior Aviation Services Inc. received procedural approval from the agency's Flight Standards District Office.
The Buffalo installation can handle everything from small private planes to commuter aircraft. A deicing system for larger planes, including 700-class commercial airliners and the military's giant C5-A cargo plane, is under construction. While declining to discuss specifics, Seel said one major US airline has already filed an addendum request with the FAA to operate the larger system.
March also marked the signing of Process Technologies' first overseas distribution agreement. Mectronics Plast & Miljo AS of Oslo, Norway, will market the system in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Companies in Asia, Europe and Canada have also expressed interest, Seel said.

Gas to radiation

The InfraTek system converts natural or liquid propane gas into infrared radiation with peak power coming between 3 and 7 µm, the most absorbable wavelength for ice, rain and snow.
In addition to environmental benefits, Seel said the system is cheaper to build and operate than conventional glycol-based systems. For example, New York's Albany County Airport spent approximately $10 million on a sewer system, some of which is used to collect glycol runoff. InfraTek systems meeting the same criteria would cost $6 million.
In Buffalo, deicing a six-passenger plane costs $1600. Prior Aviation now offers the same service for $700, mainly because the plane's owner does not have to pay the $13 per gallon chemical disposal fee that accompanies glycol-based deicers. The system also allows an airport company to give the owner a fixed rate up front, instead of charging a fee based on the amount of chemical it takes to deice the plane.

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