Heathrow’s snow preparation

Saturday 18, December 2010


Heathrow’s snow preparation


Heathrow's snow team has been preparing for months and are working 24/7 to clear runways of snow, de-ice runways/taxiways.


Heathrow uses the Met Office's OpenRunway system which offers 24 hour access to measurements including air and runway temperatures, wind and visibility, all vital in determining the right time to apply anti or de-icer.


There is £6m worth of snow and ice fighting technology. An extra £500k was invested this year alone to upgrade equipment. 


More than £1.5million was spent on de-icing fluid last year, and Heathrow has storage for 500,000 litres of de-icing fluid. Each de-icing vehicle can hold a massive 60,000 litres and it takes around 25 mins to de-ice each runway. Liquid de-icer used on the runway and taxiways is effective for longer and ensures that grit doesn't cause damage to engines


Heathrow has over 50 highly trained specialists and more than 60 hi-spec vehicles. A snow plough costs around £250,000


Airside experts run constant checks of runway and taxiway areas, applying de-icing and of course clearing any snow and debris away. Grit cannot be used as it could enter engines. Similarly, de-icer cannot be used in rain as it washes away. However, when temperatures drop quickly it becomes harder to de-ice, as the aforementioned rain can freeze very quickly.


The airport’s fleet of snow ploughs and de-icing vehicles live at a specially constructed snow base which sits in between the two runways. 


Heathrow is determined that it doesn't run out of the highly concentrated de-icing fluid it uses on the runways but as weather worsens, transporting this around will become harder. The airport now has an innovative computer system that remotely measures how much de-icer is left - to ensure restocking can take place when required.



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