August 2008 Issue

Aircraft Engine Carburetor Ice

Carburetor ice can form at any altitude or power setting, irrespective of what the tachometer reads.

For student pilots who aren’t mechanically inclined—and even for many who are—some of the basic concepts in aviation are difficult to grasp. Recent advances in technology and aircraft design have resulted in new aircraft which more closely resemble the high-end luxury car the pilot may have driven to the airport. But that’s pretty much where any similarities—accidental or purposeful—between automobiles and aircraft end. As a primary student somewhat familiar with engines and other mechanical contrivances, one of the aviation-centric concepts I found challenging involved carburetor ice. Since most of my training took place during what I recall as a long, hot, humid summer in southern Georgia, the idea of any ice forming anywhere outside of a beer cooler was totally foreign. Being the dutiful student pilot, however, I readily accepted the instructor’s explanation of why and how to apply carburetor heat. Anything to get my hands on a mighty Cessna 150’s controls and aim it skyward.

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