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Despite the snow forecast for Thursday, runways bask in eternal summer

Article published
25.10.2017 at 07:00
Snowplow machines on snowy day.
People & Aviation
On Thursday 26 October, heavy snowfall is expected even in Southern Finland. The snow-clearing professionals at the airport are fully prepared for winter and will do their best to make air traffic run smoothly in spite of the snow.

Winter means difficult times for all traffic, and air traffic is no exception.

Whenever harsh weather compromises the conditions on roads, it affects runways, too. Since snow, ice, frost and water decrease friction, they are not welcome on runways. Aeroplanes taking off and landing must have eternal summer conditions.

“Year-round air traffic in Finland is only possible thanks to the solid snow-how of Finnish airports. Finavia wants to make sure that the performance of our airports in snowy conditions remains impeccable by global standards. Securing the reliability of air traffic by ensuring the operability of our airports in variable weather conditions is one of the cornerstones of Finavia’s customer service, because air passengers and carriers expect air traffic to be more reliable than most other forms of traffic even in demanding conditions,” says Finavia’s Technical Director Henri Hansson.

At Helsinki Airport, Finavia’s powerful asset is a fleet of sweeper/blower vehicles that cost almost EUR 1 million each. It is an impressive sight to see a total of nine of these 32-tonne monsters driving side by side on the runway, which is three kilometres long and 60 metres wide.

The steel brush in the back of snow plough brushes the asphalt clean, while any loose matter is blown away by the blower that blasts air at a speed of 300 km/h.

Just ten minutes, and the runway is squeaky clean!

To complement the massive snow plough team, there are riding snow blowers and vehicles that spread anti-skid chemicals. With a combined power of the fleet at 12,000 hp, they are ready to tackle any storm. It takes about ten minutes to sweep and blow the runway clean.

Watch the video to see SnowHow in action:

SnowHow = careful planning + high-power fleet + skilled experts

Efficient snow removal and smooth operations require not only powerful machines, but also procedures that have been honed to perfection over the years. The Helsinki Airport maintenance team, for example, has over 20 procedures that have been designed and practiced in advance and can be applied in collaboration with the air traffic control whenever weather conditions demand.

The management of changing weather and flying conditions is based on long-term process and product development, where the use of such data as weather information and models with different technologies provides a strong backbone for planning and operations.

In many winters, Finavia has received substantial international attention due to the reliability of Helsinki Airport even in harsh snow conditions. Our world-class snow-how is put to work also in other airports operated by Finavia.

Let it snow – we are ready!

Scary monsters and spiky giants clearing the snow off the runway