Winter services ready to roll at Munich Airport

Posted: 4 November 2013 | Munich Airport | No comments yet

550 staff on hand to keep runways clear of ice and snow…

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For those in charge of the Winter Services with the Munich Airport operating company (FMG), one motto sums up the working year: Once the snow is gone, it’s time to get ready for the snow. After last winter – one of the harshest since the airport first opened – the snow had hardly melted before teams got busy again: analyzing data, drawing up concepts, and maintaining and updating vehicles and equipment.

The airport’s Winter Services are now well equipped to face the coming cold season. All of the storage depots are topped up: 600,000 liters of liquid de-icing agent, 100 tons of granular de-icing agent, 600 tons of sharp sand are on hand as well as 800 tons of crushed stone and 300 tons of salt for roads and pathways in the airport’s public areas.

This year, on-call duty for our airport’s winter services personnel started back in mid-October, and training sessions began in September. The most important task for our winter services is keeping the runways, taxiways, aprons and the related service roads free of ice and snow. Snow removal and de-icing of these areas is handled mostly by mechanical means, and also with de-icing agents when necessary. Munich Airport’s winter services Seite 2 von 3 have up to 170 team members per shift operating their special vehicles. The two runways – each four kilometers long and 60 meters wide – and the taxiways are constantly cleared of ice and snow by a total of 24 airblast sweepers, six snow plows and other sprayers and grit spreading vehicles. It takes just 25 minutes to clear a runway at Munich Airport.

In the coming winter services season, approximately 550 staff will work to keep Munich Airport running smoothly under all weather conditions: about 80 more than last winter. A total of 40 permanent employees of FMG are scheduled to support the crews, mainly in management or supervisory roles. In addition, some 40 casual staff are hired in each winter period under seasonal contracts. Providing the human resources backbone of the airport’s Winter Services are some 460 farmers and truckers from the immediate vicinity of the airport. Working with more than 130 of their own vehicles, they are brought in to clear snow and truck it to dumping areas. The winter services fleet is comprised of approximately 200 vehicles. A total of 90 snow clearing vehicles are deployed to the apron park positions alone. The area to be cleared at Munich Airport amounts to more than 4 million square meters.

In case of impending delays through snow and ice, the Winter Services crews are put on alert by the FMG Traffic Management Center, which is in charge of monitoring the condition of the airport’s operational areas around the clock. In addition to the up-to-the-minute forecasts provided by the German Weather Service, the Traffic Management Center is supported by an ice detection early warning system that continually retrieves updated information from 18 measurement stations distributed across the airport. Special vehicles also continuously test the braking coefficients on the runways. If they do not meet the standards, the Traffic Management Center immediately orders the runway in question to be cleared or de-iced.

For environmental reasons, priority is given to mechanical removal of snow and ice from traffic operation areas. The spraying of a de-icing agent is necessary only when there is a risk of surface icing on flight operation areas. On some surfaces quartz sand is spread instead of a de-icing agent. On both sides of the runway, reinforced concrete gutters collect the melting fluids as they run off and channels them into holding basins. From there they are pumped in a controlled manner to a water treatment plant.

The 2012/2013 season was an outstanding example of the effort and expense involved in Munich Airport’s winter services. By the end of March they had worked more than 118,000 hours – an increase of nearly two thirds over the previous season. The 73 days of winter operations was also much higher than in the winter of 2011/2012, when crews saw just 50 days of action.

The total snowfall last winter amounted to approximately 110 centimeters. The airport’s winter services had to remove some 900,000 cubic meters – or 15,000 truckloads – of compacted snow and distribute it over the five snow dumps on the airport property. The heaviest day of operations last winter was January 17, 2013, when both runways had to be cleared 11 times. In total, FMG incurred 13.5 million euros in additional personnel and material costs as compared with an average winter season.

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