In order for a busy airport to function 24 hours a day, many different services need to be carried out quickly and efficiently. Many specially designed vehicles, all with vital tasks to perform on the tarmac, help to make this all possible.
Here are four very unique vehicles that get the job done at Helsinki Airport.
1. Snow blower aka ”Mörkö-Matti”
Helsinki Airport is world-renowned for its top class snow-how. The roads, ramps and runways on are kept functional even when Mother Nature serves the frostiest weather and extreme blizzards. This requires heavy arsenal.
The piece of ground equipment with the most muscle when it comes to airport snow-how is the snow blower, dubbed ”Mörkö-Matti” by the maintenance crew. Its job is to remove the mounds of snow pushed aside by the snowploughs. The 1000 horsepower blower can throw snow up to 25 meters away.
2. The Follow-Me car
Traffic on the tarmac is managed by a marshaller, the “sheriff” of the airport, who uses visual signals to lead aircraft to their designated parking stands or to the runway.
The marshaller drives a Follow-Me car, a yellow van with a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, to guide planes to the right stands. The work of marshallers and their vehicles is crucial, especially for pilots who are unfamiliar with Helsinki Airport.
Altogether, there are six Follow-Me cars at Helsinki Airport and only trained air traffic personnel are allowed to drive them.
3. De-icing vehicle
When the weather gets frosty, planes need to be de-iced before takeoff. The aircraft go through a special showering process, where surfaces are cleared from ice, snow and frost.
The de-icing vehicle’s nozzle can reach up to 18 meters to allow it to spray the aircraft’s surface with hot water and propylene glycol.
De-icing a large plane can take up to 20 minutes. This is a crucial procedure for air traffic safety as it keeps critical surfaces, such as the wings and tail, clear of ice that could dislodge and damage the engine during flight.
The de-icing equipment is owned by airline subcontractors or ground handling businesses.
4. The high lift truck, a.k.a. the catering car
Neat and compact airline meals are packed into the aircraft with a special catering vehicle called the high lift truck.
The car delivers catering trolleys right up to the plane’s door and can rise as high as six meters thanks to a hydraulic lift.
These high loaders of Helsinki Airport are unique in the world in that they lift both the container and the cockpit of the car at the same time, allowing the driver to unpack the service into the aircraft easily.
In one run, the catering car can deliver products to four different planes, including meals, drinks, newspapers and pre-ordered goods.