In fact, as many of us jetted off for our summer holidays, the airside operations team at Glasgow was hard at work learning about new snow clearing devices and how to prepare for winter.
In this blog, we’re interviewing Louise Hurst – Glasgow Airport’s Airside Operations Manager - to find out more about how the airport prepares for the arrival of snow.
Can you tell us why snow presents a challenge for an airport?
The arrival of snow brings a variety of challenges to any airport - most obviously icy conditions make it more challenging for aircraft to take off and to land on. In Scotland, our snow tends to turn icy very quickly – it’s different from the dry powdery snow that lands in North America and makes it more challenging for our aircraft to operate in.
When snow does arrive we need to get all hands on deck very quickly to clear the runway, taxiways and walkways to ensure our airport continues to operate as normally as possible, with a minimal knock on impact to the operation. Safety always comes first at Glasgow Airport. That can require a lot of forward planning, so being organised with personnel, equipment and training is absolutely vital.
How do you prepare for snow at Glasgow?
Our winter preparedness programme gets into full swing in the middle of summer. It starts with intensive training and retraining exercises for our winter operations team which covers subjects such as how to operate safely in icy conditions. Glasgow has a good track record in dealing with snow events and that’s largely due to our extensive training and preparation.
The winter operations team will be trained on how to clear stands, roads and taxiways, as well as how to safely use snow clearing tractors and plough equipment. In winter, the size of our airside operations team more than doubles - we have a 24/7 rota system in place to ensure we always have plenty of help when we need it – at all times of the day and night.
What sort of specialist equipment do you have?
In March we took delivery of two brand new RS400s from Norway to add to our existing fleet, taking our total to five. These are heavy goods vehicles which operate at a great pace, clearing snow from taxiways and runways. We also have three SB90s, 10 tractors and lots of manual equipment including shovels and brushes. Effective plows and mechanical brooms are essential to keep surfaces clean and safe when the snow arrives.
So it’s mid-January, how do you know when the snow is going to come?
The airport subscribes to a specialist weather monitoring system which provides highly accurate and in-depth forecasts. Our subscription also includes online tools and forecasting equipment and operates on a red, amber, green alert system. If the alert indicates an ‘amber’ snow warning, we immediately call out our winter operations team to ensure we are ready for when the snow comes – it can involve a fair bit of waiting around but it’s essential we can get all hands on deck as quickly as possible.
How do planes get de-iced?
It is the responsibility of individual airlines to ensure planes are de-iced and ready for take-off - that is something each airline employs a handling agent to do on their behalf. All planes need to be de-iced approximately 15 minutes before they take off, and when there are numerous departures planned within a short space of time, this can sometimes have a knock on effect to the operation.
Do you have any advice for passengers travelling when ice and snow comes?
We always advise our passengers to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to ensure they make their departing flight. It is also beneficial to keep an eye on the @GLA_airport twitter feed, and also check with individual airlines for up-to-date flight information.