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Commentary: Snowhow is a result of the seamless cooperation of many airport actors at Finavia's airports

Article published
22.11.2023 at 10:26
Jani Elasmaa, Johtaja Helsinki-Vantaalla
People & Aviation
“Finavia’s goal is safe and smooth air traffic in all weather conditions. It is based on our snow-how and cooperation with air traffic control, airlines and ground handling companies,” writes Jani Elasmaa, Finavia’s Vice President responsible for Helsinki Airport’s runway and apron operations.

Continuous anticipation and the seamless cooperation of hundreds of professionals is essential for ensuring safe and smooth air traffic even in exceptional winter weather conditions.

Preparation for winter begins well before the first snowfall arrives at the airport. Throughout the year, we closely monitor weather phenomena and forecasts that affect air traffic. On the basis of these, we anticipate and communicate the necessary measures to our stakeholders.

Runway snow removal and anti-icing are the most visible parts of our snow-how. In order to keep the kilometres of runways in summer condition even in winter, we use carefully defined and practised sweeping patterns for snow removal and anti-icing.

Finavia’s snow-how is world-famous, as we are able to keep our runways open even in challenging winter conditions. It takes about 11 minutes to clear one runway of snow. When we remove snow from one runway at Helsinki Airport, the other two runways are in use.

Deicing is a significant part of the winter safety of flying

In winter weather, ice is removed from aircraft wings and prevented from forming. This is essential for safe flying. Deicing is carried out by ground handling companies at the request of airlines.

If a snowstorm and icy conditions hit at the same time, aircraft engines, for example, will have to be deiced. In these cases, the airlines’ deicing capacity will be fully engaged and delays cannot always be avoided.

In challenging weather conditions, air traffic control may also restrict the number of arrivals and departures to ensure safety. These types of conditions include strong crosswinds, heavy snowfall and icy weather. Restrictions slow down traffic, as the number of flights allowed to take off or land is smaller than usual. Passengers will experience this as delays.

Anticipating weather phenomena is part of snow-how

We constantly anticipate changes in weather. In this, Finavia gets valuable help especially from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, which provides up-to-date information on weather phenomena influencing air traffic.

We are informed well in advance of snowstorms. With the help of the forecast, we will be able to ensure, together with Finavia’s own units – such as maintenance – and other companies, that the necessary resources and professionals are prepared. Our key partners are Fintraffic’s air traffic control, airlines and ground handling companies.

Safety is the backbone of the work of all companies and personnel operating at the airport. In challenging conditions, we allow delays, but we do not compromise on safety. We also have the courage to say that the weather is too bad and operating flights would not be safe. However, the suspension of traffic is very rare. Finnish snow-how is world-famous for a reason.

Thumbnail from the video with title Finnish Snowhow

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