College of Engineering | Department of Aerospace Engineering

Advanced Flow Diagnostics and Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory

Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) Base Program for Aircraft Icing Studies


About Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC):

The Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program from NASA which is designed to support science and engineering education. ‌The ISGC funds activities at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Drake University to coordinate and improve Iowa's future in aerospace science and technology and to stimulate aerospace research, education and outreach. Funded research is done in collaboration with other researchers in government (especially NASA), industry and nonprofit organizations. Funding from ISCG is used to purchase supplies necessary for the research and provide scholarships for students participating in the research.
The ISGC support may also be used for domestic travel to conferences and/or NASA Centers for collaboration and networking.



About the ISGC Base Program for Aircraft Icing Studies:

Aircraft icing is widely recognized as a significant hazard to aircraft operations in cold weather. When an aircraft or rotorcraft flies in a cold climate, some of the super cooled droplets would impact and freeze on exposed aircraft surfaces to form ice shapes. Ice may accumulate on every exposed frontal surface of an airplane, not only on the wing, propeller and windshield, but also on the antennas, vents, intakes, and cowlings. Icing accumulation can degrade the aerodynamic performance of an airplane significantly by increasing drag while decreasing lift. In moderate to severe conditions, an airplane can become so iced up that continued flight is impossible. The airplane may stall at much higher speeds and lower angles of attack than normal. It can roll or pitch uncontrollably, and recovery may be impossible. Ice can also cause engine stoppage by either icing up the carburetor or, in the case of a fuel-injected engine, blocking the engine’s air source. The importance of proper ice control for aircraft operation in cold climate was highlighted by many aircraft crashes in recent years like the deadly accident occurred at Clarence Center, New York on February 12, 2009 with 50 souls lost in the accident of a Bombardier DHC-8-400 aircraft operating as Continental Flight 3407. Similarly, the Embraer EMB-12RT aircraft collided with terrain at Monroe, Michigan, killing 27 people on January 9, 1997. The ART-72 aircraft operating as American Eagle Flight 4184 collided with terrain at Roselawn, Indiana on October 31, 1994 due to freezing rain, killing 68 people.  Military aircraft are not immune from icing hazards either. Military operates airfields across the world, many of which require de-icing/anti-icing to be conducted if operations are to continue during cold weather. Icing has been found to causes military mission delays during ground deicing of aircraft and even mission cancellations and abortions because of forecast or actual in-flight icing.  Regardless of the aircraft type being supported, the methods of de-icing /anti-icing and the concerns that accompany it remain the same. While research progress has been made in recent years in providing better understanding about aircraft icing phenomena, aircraft icing remains as an important unsolved problem at the top of the National Transportation Safety Board’s most wanted list of aviation safety improvements.

This ISGC base program will leverage the uniqueness of the icing research wind tunnel available (IRWT) at Iowa State University (ISU) and the technical strengths and expertise of ISU researchers on icing physics and modeling; experimental aerodynamics and heat transfer; computational fluid mechanics (CFD); multiphase physics modeling and simulation; high-performance computing and data mining; high-speed imaging and non-destructive evaluation (NDE); surface chemistry; hydrophobic coatings and surface engineering; smart materials and nanotechnology to synergize a research and education integrated program to conduct theoretical, computational, and experimental investigations on important micro-physical processes pertinent to aircraft icing and anti-/de-icing technology. A better understanding of the important micro-physical processes will enable us to improve current icing accretion models for more accurate prediction of ice formation and accretion processes on aircraft as well as to develop more effective and robust anti-/de-icing strategies to ensure safer and more efficient operation of aircraft in cold weather.


Research Teams Working on the ISGC Base Program for Aircraft Icing Studies:

Faculty members:

Dr. Hui Hu
Professor and Director
Advanced Flow Diagnostics and Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory
Department of Aerospace Engineering
Iowa State University
2271 Howe Hall - Room 2251, Ames, IA 50011
Phone: (515) 294-0094

Dr. Alric Rothmayer
Department of Aerospace Engineering
Iowa State University
2271 Howe Hall - Room 2235, Ames, IA 50011

Phone: 515-294-8851

ISGC Fellowship Awardees:

Mr. Andrew Bodling

PhD student


Mr. Ira Mitchell

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Mr. Toby Cruz

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Miss Miriam Wilson

Undergraduate Research Assistant






Miss Ashley Johnson

Undergraduate Research Assistant





Sample Results Derived from the ISGC Base Program for Aircraft Icing Studies:

(a). Over the upper surface of the airfoil

 (b). Over the lower surface of the airfoil

Glaze ice accretion process over a NACA0012 airfoil with airflow speed V=35m/s, T=-8°C, α = 5.0 deg. (Waldman & Hu, 2014)



              (a). airflow velocity V=15m/s                                       (b). airflow velocity V=20m/s                                                  (c). airflow velocity V=25m/s

Surface water rivulet/film flow over a NACA0012 airfoil pertinent to aircraft icing phenomena  (Zhang & Hu et al. 2013)


Becoming the Best
Department of Aerospace Engineering, Iowa State University, 2271 Howe Hall, Room 1200, Ames, Iowa 50011
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