Composite Wing De-ice

Project Tasks

R&D (Research and Development) was my main focus for many years. One of our projects I worked on was fabricating a composite leading edge that de-iced itself in flight with electricity. I had 2 roles in this development. I was to R&D all wing electrical elements, as well as fabricating the leading edge structure itself. The heating element itself was designed by a team of engineers using graphite technology. The leading edge shape, and Lewice analysis was also performed by other team members.

My first task is to make the copper buss that gets laminated inside the leading edge structure. I would hand cut copper sheets to pre configured patterns. Then solder the shapes to copper studs previously turned on a lathe. 

Next task is to lay out the dielectric composite reinforcements, resins. heating element, and electrical connections.

Once everything is in order the materials get placed under vacuum and heated to a specified temperature. 

The heater is now trimmed to specs, and inspected. This part is now electrically insulated and ready to be placed into a mold with carbon fiber reinforcement.

Once the composite heating element is embedded in carbon fiber it is trimmed using a different mold or jig. Here is where it starts looking like a wing.

Now that I have a working heated wing section lets hook it up and test it. In this case I take it to N.A.S.A. Glenn Icing Research Tunnel. The main wing section is installed into a 6ft by 6ft tunnel section. I attach the leading edge and let the ice fly!


Project Description

KATS, with NASA assistance, has developed the ThermaWing system; a lightweight, easy-to-install, reliable deicing system.

Technology usually limited to jets is now made available to the general aviation community and a proven solution to ice build-up. ThermaWing is the leading choice for safety when dealing with ice hazard prevention.


2007 NASA SPINOFF: Deicing System Protects General Aviation Aircraft

In 2007 the publication NASA SPINOFF, marked Kelly's ThermaWing deicing system as the future of ice protection. One objective of NASA's Aviation Safety Program along with the FAA, is combating ice. The ThermaWing proves the most reliable deicing system with non of the drawbacks that "weeping wing" or boots have.

Read More: Deicing System Protects GA Aircraft →


  • STC ON COLUMBIA 400/350/300
    CESSNA CORVALIS 400/350 
  • STC ON CIRRUS SR-22 [Pending]


  • Columbia 300, 350, 400 / Cessna Corvalis 350, and 400 STC complete. Available Now!
  • Cirrus SR-22 [pending].


Operationally, it is better than TKS! (by a lot) I think we have the best de-icing option that a little plane can have. My hat's off to the dedicated people at Kelly for all the hard work they've done to bring their system to our airplanes.Steve Demy, Pilot/Owner
Some of the most promising technology to ever come our way.Kurt Blankenship, NASA
This reliable wing and tail deicing system allows pilots to safely fly through ice encounters...NASA Spinoff 2007

Why it Works

This new flexible, electrically conductive, graphite foil technology has none of the drawbacks or limited effectiveness of the boot or weeping wing. Instead of the chemical mess of liquid deicers and the added weight/performance drag of boots, the ThermaWing™ covers a large surface area without significant weight penalties and instantly sheds ice.

Once armed the ThermaWing™ system will activate at 41°F starting the deice cycle. An exact concentration of heat breaks the bond between the ice and heater surface during each cycle. Energy is controlled across the system so the leading edge and shed zones can be heated according to need. Thus making ThermaWing™ the most advanced aircraft deicing system available on the market today.

How it Works

The outer layer of the laminate is a heat-conducting Tedlar a very thin ice phobic. It offers a unique balance of aesthetics while offering the durability of a fluoropolymer. A zoned heater system is utilized and controlled by a solid-state processor. The impingement area, or leading edge, is kept warm continually melting impinging ice, or simply, "runs wet". The area just aft of this impingement area, or shedding zone, is kept below freezing causing the run back to freeze and collect as ice. During a de-ice cycle the voltage is increased raising the temperature of this aft shedding zone, releasing the ice bond and shedding the ice via aerodynamic force. Once power is removed from the heater the shedding zones immediately freeze and continue to collect ice until the next de-ice cycle. This system may take as little as 1 second per surface and only 33 seconds to deice the entire aircraft using a 60 second cycle.


  • Skills:

    •  Composite
    •  mold making
    •  fiberglass layup
  • Client:

    Kelly Aerospace Thermal Sys, Lancair, MRAS, NASA

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