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Keeping track of Ryanair on social media normally leads to posts from disgruntled passengers about baggage fees, nightmarish diversions and questionable customer service. But one recent post may have the airline, and an Italian airport, in some seriously hot water.

A post that hit social media last week shows ground crew at Brindisi Airport (BDS) in Southern Italy de-icing an airplane using a set of stairs and buckets of hot water.


Anyone who has flown out of a chilly destination during wintry conditions would be familiar with the standard de-icing procedure. It normally involves boom trucks spraying down the control surfaces of the plane with a mix of chemicals to remove ice and keep it from reforming for a period of time.

Winter Travel Delay: an airplane getting de-iced at the airport during a blizzard snowstorm.

According to The Sun, the airport operator said, “The captain was aware and satisfied. The procedure was to remove a little residual snow. It was a perfectly safe procedure.” The airport operators added that guidelines say, “buckets of hot water at 60 [degrees Celsius] are allowed when the air temperature is 0 [degrees Celsius].”

But a former de-icer who worked at Philadelphia International (PHL) told TPG that, “regardless of whether or not it’s legal, it’s not a good idea. The risk is that the water they’re using to de-ice could become ice itself.”

Ultimately, it’s the decision of the captain to determine if the aircraft is safe to fly. But Ryanair’s unorthodox approach to dealing with ice on this plane has lead Italy’s Civil Aviation Authority to send inspectors to Brindisi, according to a local news site based in the Italian port city, to find out exactly what happened.

Even tiny amounts of ice built up on control surfaces can have devastating effects on the aerodynamic characteristics of an aircraft. There are normally clearly defined guidelines on chemical mixtures and time limits between deicing operations for aircraft, based on outside temperatures. Most airlines spend a lot of time and money developing their de-icing programs.

Featured image by Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images.

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