Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Infrared Aircraft Deicing System

Infrared Aircraft Deicing System

Henry W. Hessing, PE
September 2005


This paper describes planning required for construction and installation of an infrared aircraft deicing facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport.


The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFKIA) is located on the shoreline of Jamaica Bay. During significant winter storms, the airport encounters heavy, wet snows.
Some airlines perform deicing at remote pads within the apron area of the terminal: other airlines perform deicing at their gates. Cargo carriers deice at their respective cargo areas. Those aircraft that deice at remote locations must first perform a “preliminary” deicing, which could include deicing of gears and control surfaces in order for aircraft to maneuver. If the aircraft is to move under its own power, the engine inlets need to be clear. Aircraft where ice/snow presents a higher risk of being ingested into engines (e.g. MD 80 series and similar) typically complete their deicing and anti-icing at the gate.
Once receiving a preliminary deicing, aircraft taxi toward the departures runway. The anti-icing hold over time may be exceeded if the weather is severe or the taxi time is long. In this case, the aircraft would require a “secondary” deicing.
The PANYNJ decided to construct one radiant deicing facility on a vacant parcel of land adjacent to Hangar 12 at JFKIA.

Need for the Project

There is not enough ramp capacity at JFK to deice aircraft without causing delays. Temporary locations will be replaced by a permanent location. The new facility will provide airlines with a safe, convenient, centralized and efficient location to deice aircraft. The deicing facility will provide an additional area where aircraft can deice, essentially increasing “deicing capacity” at JFK.
The infrared aircraft deicing system will be housed within one clamshell type structure capable of deicing Group 3, Group 4 and Group 5 aircraft up to a 747 - 300. Use of this system provides an environmental benefit in that it employs infrared energy and only a minimum amount of glycol, a deicing fluid, to deice aircraft. This technique is an alternative to conventional glycol spraying which is commonly used in the deicing process.


In 2002, Radiant Aviation Services Incorporated (Radiant) sent an unsolicited proposal to the Port Authority offering to provide their patented Infra-Tek technology for use in an infrared radiant deicing facility at JFK. The Infra-Tek system is the only radiant deicing system that has earned FAA Flight Standards approval for deicing commercial aircraft. The Infra-Tek system has been installed for Continental Airlines at Newark Liberty International Airport and earlier versions were installed at Rheinlander-Oneida County Airport in Wisconsin and Buffalo International Airport in New York.

The Site

John F Kennedy International Airport is located in the southeast section of Queens County, New York City, adjacent to Jamaica Bay. By highway, it is fifteen miles from midtown Manhattan. Equivalent in size to all of Manhattan Island from 42nd Street to the Battery, JFKIA consists of 4,930 acres. The 2.3-acre, infrared aircraft-deicing site is located on the ramp abutting Hangar 12 that was formerly operated by TWA.


Benefits of increased capacity include operational performance by reducing airline delays and flight cancellations that could have been attributed to insufficient capacity.
Benefits to the Port Authority and airlines include: fewer equipment movements on the airside operating area during winter storms; a reduction in conventional infrastructure such as glycol storage, trucking and parking; a dramatic reduction in glycol use; and because of the potential to reduce delays, cancellations there is a potential for airline cost savings. This is a year round facility which may be used for maintenance during off-season.
Two principal objectives for the PANYNJ are improving utilization of airport infrastructure and providing adequate capacity to meet the level and distribution of demand on various components of the airport system including airside facilities. Providing necessary efficient capacity to allow the airlines to deice aircraft is consistent with Port Authority goals of enhancing JFK as a world-class airport.

Identification of Alternatives Evaluated

In early 2001, the Port Authority conducted a study to examine the feasibility of a centralized deicing facility at JFK. Several alternate locations were examined for conventional deicing, but were found to be economically unfeasible and not operationally viable. This is the best site available that can be used to operate a new radiant deicing facility and still meet holdover times.
The no action alternative would result in operational delays and flight cancellations.

Sole Source

Why use RAS as sole source for a design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) contract?

Radiant Aviation Services, Inc. (RAS) markets the Infra Tek Infrared Aircraft Deicing System. They are the inventor and sole supplier of the Infra Tek Infrared Aircraft Deicing System. RAS holds patent protection for: “Method of, and apparatus for, deicing an aircraft by infrared radiation.”
RAS has completed a successful operation of a single unit installed and operated at Newark Liberty International Airport for Continental Airlines.
In August 2003, the FAA approved a Grant Agreement with the Port Authority for construction of an Infrared Aircraft deicing Facility on the Hangar 12 ramp at JFKIA, which is to conform to FAA Advisory circular 150/5100-14C. The Infra-Tek system is the only known radiant deicing system approved by the FAA for deicing commercial aircraft.

Justification for Sole Source Procurement

FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-14 (Change 2 issued Aug 31, 2000), “Design of Aircraft Deicing Facilities”, provides technical performance tests and related standards and recommendations for fixed type infra-red deicing technologies for aircraft. The FAA advised JFK Redevelopment (via e-mail 08 Sep 03) "the only fixed system that has earned Flight Standards approval to date for such applications has been the system that PANYNJ has in operation by Continental Airlines at Newark Liberty International Airport." The system referenced is a radiant deicing system known as the InfraTek Infrared Aircraft Deicing System. It was invented by Radiant Aviation Services, Inc., which holds patent protection for "Method of, and apparatus for, deicing an aircraft by infrared radiation."
Since there is only one approved system/manufacturer, no other vendors currently are qualified.
On February 5, 2004 the FAA wrote a letter to the PANYNJ Aviation Planning Division stating, “Considering the reasons presented in the letter (September 18, 2003) and understanding the unique nature of this technology: we hereby concur with your request to proceed with a sole source contract with Radiant Aviation Services (RAS) for the Infra Tek Infrared Deicing System.”

How it Works

Studies dating as far back as 1948 have reviewed the use of infrared energy for heating and found it safe.
Combustion of natural/propane gas is controlled to create targeted electromagnetic waves. When energy reaches frost, snow or ice melting and evaporation occur. Infrared energy doesn’t reach the aircraft surface until it is exposed and then it reflects away. When a zone (e.g. a fuselage) is completed, it is switched to half power to prevent snow/ice re-accumulation.
The specification for the Energy Processing Units (EPUs) reads: "Each EPU burner is factory tested to a maximum of 50,000 BTU/hr (approximately 50 CFH) according to ANSI requirements for infrared gas heaters. Total rack consumption is a maximum of 200,000 BTU/Hr." Annual consumption can be estimated by summing total hours run time for each rack times maximum rack consumption.

Industry Acceptance

SAE G12 Deicing sub-committee included the use of infrared deicing facilities as a recommended deicing practice in ARP4737E “Deicing Methods” Section 6.1.3. G12 members include airlines, regulators and aircraft manufacturers. Infrared deicing facilities are currently the only reduced or zero glycol technology to be approved for inclusion in that document as a deicing method. It is the only FAA “approved for use” infrared deicing facility per AC150/5300-14 Change #2.

Project Costs

The project construction cost is estimated as follows:
Description Cost (in millions)

Design & Construction: $ 8.8
Planning and Engineering 0.3
Admin & General: 0.3
Contingency: 0
Financial Expense: 0.1

Total Project Cost: $ 9.5

Financial Analysis

The costs are fully recoverable through Federal Aid and operation payments received from Radiant. The level of commitment by airlines letters of intent indicates that this project will be self-sustaining.

Selected Alternative Description

The infrared aircraft deicing facility (System 2500) consists of an open-ended hangar type structure housing the patented Infra-Tek technology that transforms natural gas into infrared radiant energy emitted through “energy processing units” (EPUs) configured to efficiently melt snow and ice from aircraft surfaces. The proposed system is 262 feet long by 262 feet wide and approximately 82 feet high. It will contain approximately 430 EPUs and can treat ADG #5 aircraft up to the size of a 747-200/300.
The facility will be located on 2.3 acres of land on the Hangar 12 site that has been vacant since TWA ceased operations. Its proximity to the runways allows taxi times that meet FAA requirements. The site has been planned to assure that Hangar 12 can still be operational.

Critical Issues

Site and Land Use

The Hangar 12 site is compatible with existing and planned airside land use.


The PANYNJ submitted an Environmental Evaluation Form for the proposed Infrared Aircraft deicing Facility at John F Kennedy International Airport, New York. The document described the project and that it involves construction and operations of an infrared, pre-flight deicing facility that would be housed in a clamshell like structure.
The FAA determined in a letter dated October 10, 2002 that this “project does not have the characteristics that require a formal NEPA environmental assessment nor does it contain the potential for causing an environmental impact. We have, therefore, determined that this project qualifies as a documented “Categorical Exclusion” and have executed this finding accordingly (signed 9/26/02). Please note that this represents the formal Federal Environmental Finding.”


Critical Project Milestones

Board authorization was required and obtained in June 2004 to implement the project as sole source procurement for designing, building operating and maintaining (DBOM) an Infrared Aircraft Deicing System.

Design Start and Completion

With Board approval the DBOM contract was prepared and reviewed by PA Law.

Construction Start and Completion

It is anticipated that the facility will be operational for the winter season 2005 - 2006.

Key Third party Coordination and Approvals

Third party coordination includes Keyspan who will supply gas to the facility; the FAA who has approved AIP funding; the airline community who have been asked to complete letters of intent to use the facility.

Facility Certification

RAS will provide the equipment, assembly, installation and commissioning of the system along with warranty service. RAS will submit a Preliminary Acceptance Test Procedure for review by the Engineer approximately 30 days after award.


The JFK Infrared Aircraft Deicing facility will deice aircraft in less time and for a lower cost than conventional deicing. An environmental benefit is that it employs infrared energy and only a minimum amount of glycol. Airline delays and cancellations that could have been attributed to insufficient capacity will be reduced.


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