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New snow clearing strategy: Two runways clear within 30 minutes – Three-shift operations

Fraport expands winter services with more staff and equipment at FRA

Fraport AG has expanded its Winter Services capability by adding more manpower and equipment to its snow-clearing and de-icing fleet at Frankfurt Airport (FRA). A new strategy has been developed to allow simultaneous clearing of ice and snow from two runways within 30 minutes, as well as from a sufficient number of taxiways. The Frankfurt Airport company has also added two more snow-clearing convoys to FRA’s Winter Services fleet and the snow team has been significantly expanded by 180 to a total of 450 people – allowing three shifts to work in round-the-clock snow removal operations at one of the world’s ten busiest airports. FRA  currently has three 4,000 meter-long runways, plus a new 2,800 meter-long landing runway that will be inaugurated this autumn on October 21.

“During the past two unusually heavy winters in Europe we have gained further vital experience,” said Fraport executive board chairman Dr. Stefan Schulte. “We are ready for the coming winter: thanks to more snow-removal convoys, more de-icing vehicles and areas, significantly more personnel, and faster processes. The fact remains that extreme weather conditions like thick fog or heavy snowfall will always impact flight operations. And of course, this can also affect processes on the ground.”

At a total cost of €5 million, the Fraport Winter Services fleet has been expanded with one large and one small snow-clearing convoy, as well as another 23 pieces of equipment for dealing with snow, ice and slush on the runway system. Thus, the Frankfurt Airport company now operates a combined fleet of six snow-removal convoys: two large convoys of vehicles and four smaller convoys – comprising a total of 243 vehicles and pieces of equipment for winter operations. The snow-clearing convoy is led by a command vehicle, followed in formation by as many as 14 runway sweepers, 2 snow blowers, 2 to 3 spreading vehicles and another command vehicle at the end. Once the runway has been cleared, a friction tester vehicle has to check whether the required surface-friction coefficient has been reached so that aircraft can land safely and break sufficiently. 

Some 450 employees -up from 270 last year- will be deployed for the upcoming winter season. They have already been training since the summer to be proficient with the new snow-removal concept. This involves a larger formation of up to 21 vehicles that covers the entire width and a 500-meter length of the runway as the convoy moves in a coordinated and highly efficient manner along the runway.

Again this winter, a biodegradable melting agent based on formic acid will be used for airside operational areas at FRA. Regular road salt cannot be utilized because it can lead to corrosion of the undercarriage of the aircraft. A logistics chain involving two suppliers will ensure that stocks of the melting agent can be reliably maintained. Beyond the runways and apron areas, Fraport Winter Services is also responsible for about 105 kilometers of roads, 450,000 square meters of car parking areas, and about 120 kilometers of sidewalks around the airport city. Damp salt is spread on surfaces of these public areas. Fraport maintains an on-airport supply of about 600 metric tons of this salt.

To meet growing traffic volumes (including during tough winter conditions) and to enable quick aircraft de-icing FRA’s de-icing vehicle fleet has been expanded by 8 to a total of 51 vehicles at a cost of approximately 6 million euros. N*ICE Aircraft Services & Support GmbH – Fraport’s joint-venture company responsible for de-icing operations at FRA – employs a team of 32. This team is supplemented during the winter season with Fraport ground handling personnel as well as staff from other Fraport subsidiaries such as Airport Personal Service and Airport Servicegesellschaft. This summer 340 de-icing staff – up from 290 last year – have been training for the coming winter. De-icing operations are organized into two shifts with approximately 100 staff available for each shift. A third shift in the nighttime hours can be staffed with up to 20 people, as required.

Aircraft de-icing will take place either directly at the gate or at special dedicated areas.  n addition to the two so-called de-icing pads near the runway system, which were already in use last winter, four more de-icing positions will be available where aircraft with running engines can be de-iced before takeoff. FRA’s supply of de-icing fluid is sufficient for seven days of winter operations. N*ICE has arranged for resupplies of de-icing fluid from two different production locations of a manufacturer that also maintains a large supply close to the airport.

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