Kitsch took these pics when we got de-iced last month.
It's the law in Canada that we can't attempt to take off if there is any contamination on any critical surface on the aircraft. Contaminants are anything that sticks on the wings, like snow, slush, ice, freezing drizzle, hordes of winged monkeys, etc. Critical surfaces are those used for lift, like the wings, elevators, and tail.
So suppose we want to go flying when it's snowing outside; at Toronto Pearson, we will incur some time and expense.
First, we fax in a request to use the central de-ice facility at Toronto. That costs $455.00, and that's just the cost of us showing up.
We then taxi down to the central facility and get in line to get de-iced, like we did in these pics a few weeks ago. The ground controller will pass us off to the de-ice controller, who we call Iceman even though she's a woman (with a really sultry voice actually). She tells us what de-ice bay to taxi toward, and gets us all set up for the de-ice trucks.
The de-ice trucks are really cool, which is good because they cost a million dollars each, for real. In the above pic you can see a couple of them working on the jet ahead of us. It's hard to see, but there is nobody in the main cab of either de-ice truck. In fact, the de-ice truck is operated by a single person, who sits up in a little cab on the main boom and can drive the truck remotely as well as operate the spray nozzles. It's pretty nifty - in the main cab of the truck we can watch the steering wheel turn all by itself as the remote operator in the boom moves around for a better position to spray the airplanes.
We set the parking brake and close our air vents (unless we want the smell of vodka to permeate the cabin) but we keep the engines running as they don't mind the alcohol spray at all.
Anyway, first they spray us with Type 1 de-ice fluid, which is basically alcohol mixed with hot water. It is to remove any ice buildup that's already on the airplane, or to disperse the hordes of winged monkeys (they seem to hate the taste of alcohol). The fluid is a bright orange color and is fairly thin and runny.
Once the operators are satisfied that we are clear of contamination, they hose us down with Type 4 de-ice fluid, which is essentially alcohol and vegetable oil. It's green, and it's a lot thicker than type 1 fluid. It will actually stick to our airplane, and it's meant to prevent ice from re-accumulating. (When we start our take-off roll, the Type 4 fluid will eventually slip off the wings, but it takes a wind of about a hundred miles per hour to do that.)
Once we are done getting sprayed, the Iceman lady with the hot voice tells us what time our de-ice protection started, then passes us back to the normal ground controllers, and we hustle out of the ramp and try to get airborne as soon as possible - we can't take too long or we'll have to repeat the experience.
We have charts on board our aircraft to determine how long the de-ice fluids will protect us from the falling snow and the angry flying monkeys, and it all depends on the ferocity of the precipitation (and the beasts) and the temperature. If there is light freezing rain falling we might only have a very few minutes to get airborne before the charts tell us we have to go back to the de-ice pad and do the whole thing over again.
Deicing at Toronto is really expensive - they charge a few bucks per litre to spray the fluid on us, and then charge about 9 bucks per litre "recovery fee", to treat the de-ice fluid that drips onto the ramp after it falls off our airplane. The excess fluid goes into big drains and flows into holding tanks where it is reprocessed and used for car antifreeze and windshield washer fluid.
When the trucks spray us, they do so with considerable force - the nozzles are like firehoses and the fluid is under a lot of pressure. For us to get de-iced will only take 5 minutes at most, but the trucks will hose us down with at least a couple of hundred litres of fluid in that time.
Our last de-ice bill was $2,000.00 and the one before that was $2,400.00, so you get some perspective of the cost of those 5 minutes. The large air carriers like Air Canada pay a fixed fee to the airport for their de-icing requirements and they get de-iced whenever they want, but we don't have that deal; we pay each time we get sprayed. Toronto is fairly insanely expensive when it comes to de-icing corporate aircraft - for the same service in Wisconsin last month, our bill came to only $600.
It is a lot of money, but it's not worth taking risks with icing; even a little bit of ice on the wings can completely screw up their ability to produce lift and result in the aircraft being unable to stay airborne, which would end up costing us a lot more than a couple grand.