Icing, and things that fly

Posted April 10th, 2013 by kcorliss. Comments Off on Icing, and things that fly.

Since the early days of aviation, the phenomenon known as airframe icing has proven to be a very very bad thing for flyers. I won’t go into the science behind this, but know that once a wing begins to accrete ice, it begins to lose efficiency. There is an ultimate point with every flying machine where, given enough ice accumulation, it will simply fall out of the sky. Countless aircraft accidents have been blamed upon aircraft icing and likely will well into the future.

While I have read aircraft accident reports about icing my whole career, never had I read of the process happening with birds. Until now.

Yesterday I flew in an aircraft to the state of Washington and back. The whole while I was keeping an eye on the radar as a tremendous winter storm was unfolding in South Dakota, wondering if it might affect my arrival back in central Minnesota. The Sioux Falls area, in particular, looked to be being absolutely pounded by freezing rain throughout the day. As it turns out, it was.

Today, the city is crippled by the storm, thousands without power, trees down everywhere having smashed through homes, structures, and vehicles. It’s all the news in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper. Among these compelling stories, though, one in particular stood out for its oddness. The ice, as it happened, hit soaring turkey vultures too. Not only that, the birds had literally dropped from the sky, presumably due to “airframe icing.” (click here for full story and photo of iced up turkey vulture).

From the story:

“My wife was making breakfast, and she suddenly yelled, ‘Adam! A large bird just fell out of the sky!’,” said (Adam) Weber…


Weber said he called Animal Control, who told him that they had received several calls about similar incidents in the McKennan Park area.

File this one under, “Things I Never Thought I’d Hear.”





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