Flying can be risky at any time, but especially during winter. Planes frequently need deicing of wings to ensure proper performance. Consequences from improper deicing can be disastrous. In 1987, 28 people died when a plane leaving from Denver crashed while taking off during a snowstorm. Improper deicing of the aircraft played a role in the disaster.

               Among the components used in deicing are piccolo tubes, which are manufactured by Alpha Metalcraft Group with a complex deep drawing process. Deep drawing is a coldwork, metal forming process that dates back to the mid-19th century. Deep drawing components are big – such as the piccolo ducts – and small, such as faucets, bathtubs and cookware. AMG specializes in manufacturing large components with traditional and exotic metals.

               Piccolo tubes (or ducts) are made with titanium, stainless steel and nickel alloys. In the aircraft assembly, they are used in anti-ice systems on the wings. Bleed air – which is compressed air taken from the compression stage of a gas turbine engine – is routed into the wing lead edges through the piccolo ducts.

               Holes punched out on the ducts allow the warm bleed air to be sprayed into the leading edges of the wing. The air prevents icing of the leading edge on both wings.

                The critical role of the piccolo ducts is to heat up the skin of the wings to evaporate most of the impinging water droplets and prevent dangerous ice accumulation.

               Deicing with piccolo tubes is an important proactive step for proper operation of the aircraft. The process improves plane safety, and also reduces use of materials. It also lowers labor time and supply costs.

               Bleed air, which is the central element to deicing, is used in several capacities on aircraft. In civil aircraft, it is used to provide pressure for the aircraft cabin by supplying air to the environmental control system. Because air at high altitudes is too thin to meet human needs for oxygen, engine bleed is used to provide proper cabin pressurization and air conditioning. It is also routed to key engine components such as the inlet guide, where it prevents ice accumulation.

               It also used in water and hydraulic system pressurization, and high pressure from the auxiliary power unit provides the pneumatic energy required to start the blade rotation in a main engine, according to a article.

                Piccolo ducts are illustrative of the benefits of deep drawing. The process allows for the manufacturing of products in complex geometries quickly and efficiently. Deep drawing limits material waste, does not require weld inspection and requires limited labor, all of which contribute to producing complex technical products – such as piccolo ducts – at reasonable cost.

               If air travel is forecast for you this winter, piccolo ducts just might plan an essential role in your flight’s safety.