“As Helsinki Airport has become one of the most important hubs in Europe, the development of wide-body traffic and the conditions for it is one of the key improvement areas outlined in Finavia’s investment programme,” says Helsinki Airport's VP Heini Noronen-Juhola.
According to Noronen-Juhola, long-haul traffic at Helsinki Airport has developed very favourably in recent years. In terms of routes to Japan, for example, Helsinki Airport is currently the largest airport in Europe. The number of transfer connections has increased by more than 75% within the last 10 years.
“The goal of the development programme is to significantly increase the parking capacity for wide-body aircraft within three years. We are in the process of acquiring more passenger boarding bridges designed for wide-body aircraft to double their number from the current level. In addition to bridge gates, we will also build several new outside parking spaces".
Focus on smooth traffic and a good passenger experience
One improvement that will support smooth traffic operations is that de-icing will be possible at almost all of the new aircraft stands. Concrete slabs will be installed at aircraft stands with membrane structures to prevent glycol leakage into the soil.
“Aircraft stands with de-icing capacity are rather expensive, but we have estimated that they are worth their price as they expedite flight operations,” says Esa-Pekka Timonen, the project manager for the development programme at Finavia.
The new bridge gates will also be heated due to Finland’s wintry weather conditions. This will ensure that access to the bridge gates will not be prevented during heavy snowfall.
“Some of the passenger boarding bridges will be double bridges to allow business and economy class passengers to board and disembark separately. This will make boarding and disembarking the plane faster,” says Noronen-Juhola.
New boarding bridges for wide-body aircraft
A total of eight new bridge gates, with drivable passenger boarding bridges, will be built in the terminal’s southern and western extensions. There are also plans to modify the existing boarding bridges for wide-body aircraft or replace them with drivable bridges. This would mean that all 16 wide-body bridges would be drivable bridges once the extension project has been completed.
The first drivable double bridge has already been deployed at gate 38 in October. The next new bridges will be deployed at gates 39 and 40 in summer 2017, coinciding with the opening of the south wing. Further new bridges will be installed as construction on the west wing progresses.
As the new bridge gates will be completed before the terminal building, they will be used as outside parking spaces where possible. Parking space 39, for example, can be used as an outside parking space as early as the end of October.
Fixed wide-body bridges will be a thing of the past, with the new bridges driven on wheels to connect them to aircraft. This means that there will be changes in gate and bridge operations. In response to this, Finavia is training some 200 bridge drivers, part of the ground handling personnel, on the new operating methods and procedures this autumn and next winter.
More flexibility in the planning of aircraft parking
The flexibility of aircraft parking operations will be increased by the fact that some of the new wide-body bridges are Mars bridges that can accommodate two narrow-body aircraft instead of one wide-body aircraft.
“Our current plan is to have four Mars bridges, two in the south wing and two in the west wing,” Noronen-Juhola says.
We are also working on plans to improve the usability of the outside parking spaces at the end of terminal 1. The goal is to discontinue the use of apron buses to access these parking spaces. However, the plans have not been finalised yet.
In 2020, Helsinki Airport will have a total of 37 bridge gates, consisting of 16 drivable wide-body bridges and 21 fixed narrow-body bridges. The number of outside parking spaces will also increase from the current level of 80. Decisions have already been made on building seven more stands.