Wing-Heating System for High-Performance Kit Aircraft

If your kit is meant to fly high and fast, and especially if you’ve designed the machine to fly well in the clouds, then you owe it to yourself to consider some kind of de-ice or anti-ice system.

Most systems designed for light aircraft include complicated pneumatic pumps, ugly rubber boots or expensive titanium leading edge cuffs. None of these are good solutions for clean, fast, high fliers such as Lancairs or RV-10s. RDD Enterprises, LLC, in cooperation with Kelly Aerospace Systems, has ported some technology developed for the Cessna 350s and 400s to the Experimental market with its Therm-X graphite foil wing-heating system.

Therm-X is an ultrathin graphite foil laminate applied to the leading edge of the wing and horizontal stabilizer. Embedded electrical buses no thicker than duct tape, connected to a dedicated alternator, control invisibly thin heating elements capable of warming the leading edge of an aircraft from near freezing to 120° in 1.5 seconds—and they do so automatically upon sensing the outside air temperature approaching the freezing zone.

“The really brilliant part of this system is how it sheds the ice,” says Matt Verdieck, who works in Operations for RDD. “The immediate edge, we call it the 'part zone,' is always warmed, but the product allows ice to accrete in a 'shed zone.' Then the system cycles on and off through six different shed zones very quickly, melting the ice just at the bond, so that it sheds off in chunks and does not melt and roll back and refreeze on the cold wing area behind the graphite laminate."

It’s not inexpensive protection, with complete systems for Lancairs running $18,000, but for that price you get installation, manuals, and a flight-tested (on your individual airplane) system, as well as a warranty. If you plan on flying your airplane in all weather, it’s a system that, the moment you need it, will seem priced just right.

Contributing Editor Amy Laboda is a freelance writer and editor of Aviation for Women magazine. She's an ATP-rated pilot and instrument and multi-engine Flight Instructor with a passion for teaching and flying in light aircraft. Her steady rides these days are a 18-year old Kitfox IV and a fresh Van's RV-10.

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