Monday, 20 December 2010

BBC News - How Helsinki airport deals with snow and ice

Interesting perspective on one aspect of dealing with snowy weather from Helsinki - basically they expect a lot of snow and very low temperatures; they are more prepared, with more staff and equipment types and numbers; our snow is wetter and ice problems are more likely; Helsinki airport does not have to handle as many flights as Heathrow...If this kind of weather is likely to occur in the UK more frequently then we have to be more prepared and perhaps change our attitude to travel intensive lifestyles.

...It looks as though there will be another snowy winter, like last year's, says Anika Kala, a spokesperson for the airport. But she says she's relaxed because the airport is "well prepared".

The preparation consists of good equipment, extra winter staff, and a choice of three runways.

While one runway is being cleared of snow or ice, the other two are open for business.


Snow storage
In exceptional circumstances, two runways may be closed. It takes a rare combination of heavy snow and high wind to close all three - as happened, briefly, seven years ago.


What about the equipment?

"We have 250 vehicles of different kinds," says Ms Kala.

"We have sweepers, snow ploughs, vehicles that blow snow from the runways, and friction testers that check the surface is fit for use."

The snow is removed to a special storage area within the airport perimeter. When that fills up, it is taken to other facilities outside.

Last winter 7,000 truckloads were carted off the runways, apron and taxi-ing areas.

Temperatures in Helsinki can drop to -25C - but Ms Kala explains that a good hard frost is much easier to deal with than a temperature of zero or -1C.

"When it's zero degrees, it's moist and there will be ice," she says....

She acknowledges that there is a big difference between Helsinki, which has a total of 600 landings and take-offs per day on its three runways, and Heathrow which has twice as many - on two runways - and five times as many passengers to deal with.

Running a big airport like Heathrow - which is privately owned by BAA - would be a bigger operation than running state-owned Helsinki airport.

But the principles for dealing with snow and ice, Ms Kala suggests, are probably the same.

BBC News - How Helsinki airport deals with snow and ice

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