When the snow and cold temperatures take a steady grip the affect on our airports is obvious. During early 2010 Frankfurt Airport, the third largest in Europe, was forced to cancel more than 200 flights in one single day.
At Arlanda Airport just north of Stockholm, aircraft take off and land almost every second minute round the clock. More than 18 million people travelled to or from Arlanda in 2008 and more than 200,000 tons of cargo was handled by the airport. During the winter months, heavy snowfall is not unusual and even if flights are occasionally delayed owing to particularly heavy snowfall, the airport has never once been shut down by snow since its opening back in 1962.
To keep the airport moving, a team of 130 people work with tackling snow and ice in the high season. They are aided by a wide-ranging fleet of Volvo products featuring specially built accessories. The most advanced vehicles are the PSB machines. PSB stands for Plow, Sweep and Blow, and they are based on Volvo Construction Equipment articulated hauler. At the front of the vehicle is a 7.3 meter wide plow that shovels most of the snow off the tarmac. It is followed by a brush that sweeps away snow and ice, and the job is rounded off by a blower which with an extraction speed of 130 m/s blows away the rest. The system is also in operation at, among others, Brussel's airport Zaventem.
By driving nine such machines alongside each other, it is possible to clear a 3.3 kilometer long and 45 meter wide runway in less than ten minutes.
“This makes us the world’s fastest airport snow-plow team,” says Stefan Sundkvist, field coordinator at Arlanda Airport.
In the fleet, there is also a number of Volvo wheel loaders that are equipped with snow-plows, sweepers and snow blowers in the winter. At an airport, safety is absolutely everything. That is why the snow “sweepers” as they are called in the language of international aviation are an integrated part of traffic planning and are in constant contact with the control tower. Just as an aircraft gets its take-off and landing times, so too do the sweepers get a slot to clear the snow and ice off the tarmac.
“We have a total of 250,000 square meters to clear from snow and ice, at the same time as the aircraft have to continue taking off and landing. There’s absolutely no room for driving around haphazardly – all the traffic has to be controlled and planned down to the most minute detail,” says Stefan Sundkvist.