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ICE a hot item at big air show

By Katherine Wartell

A Manhattan company that specializes in aviation technologies is making its name known internationally following the 2012 Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom.

There, ICE Corporation officials discussed, among other innovations, their involvement with a system that uses electric motors on aircrafts instead of jet engines for taxiing and pushback purposes. That promotes efficiency, lowers emissions, saves on fuel and reduces the chances of engine foreign object damage, company president Randy O’Boyle said. He projects the system would save airlines $500,000 in gas per airplane per year.

The system was developed by WheelTug. O’Boyle said Isaiah Cox, that company’s founder, asked ICE Corporation for help in building a motor controller for their creation.

The way the entire systems works is that electric motors are installed in the landing gear wheels of the aircraft and controlled by the ICE-designed power controller. Pilots turn on the system through a console in the cockpit. That allows the aircraft to be electrically driven from the terminal gate to the runway and vice versa, running on auxiliary power the aircraft has on board.

The system was first designed for the Boeing 737NG and O’Boyle said it is expected to be operational for commercial airlines at the end of 2013. ICE’s involvement began about 3.5 years ago, he said.

Arlie Stonestreet II, chief design engineer at ICE, said the system was one of the biggest hits at the Farnborough Show amongst pilots. 

Stonestreet, who has been with the company since 1995, said one of the most exciting aspects of his job is making enabling qualities for the next generation of aircrafts. O’Boyle said innovation is what ICE Corporation is all about.

“We don’t want to be the pager manufacturer when everyone else is talking on a cell phone,” he said.

The company has also spent years perfecting the technology that put its name on the map: de-icers.

ICE’s first contract in the aircraft industry was in 1975 designing a de-icer for Cessna Aircraft Company.

Now, company officials are talking about an electro-thermal wing the company has been working on with Bombardier Aerospace. Stonestreet said with the system installed, the front of the wing would have a heating mat that heats up then thermally stabilizes. It makes the mat hot enough to melt ice but not too hot to melt the wing. ICE designed the controllers for the wing, which uses electrical energy from the aircraft, or hot air from the engines.

The company was founded approximately 31 years ago by Kansas State University engineers, including present company vice president, Mike Casey. It was started at a time when electronics were just becoming a thing, he said, and the company has evolved as electronics have evolved.

“We are heavily involved in pursuing new technologies,” O’Boyle said.

The company designs, manufactures and tests all of their products at its headquarters on Amherst Avenue.

O’Boyle said the small company organization helps to fuel innovations. “Small companies are nimble,” he said.

“The founders started technology trying to chart a way forward,” O’Boyle said. “(Now), ICE is known as a leading force in power control and aviation.”

The company, however, isn’t necessarily well-known locally. “I still hear people say, ‘God, I didn’t know we had anything like that in Manhattan,’” O’Boyle said.

Clients of ICE Corporation include Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Sikorsky, AgustaWestland and Rolls Royce.

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