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Dr Michael Kerkloh, President and CEO of Munich Airport (FMG) explains how his organisation prepares for winter operations to minimise the inevitable disruptions that heavy snowfall brings.


ne of our industry’s unwritten laws says that in winter the days get shorter and the flights get longer. Despite the enormous advances in recent decades in technologies for de-icing aircraft and flight operation surfaces, this rule unfortunately still applies far too often today. Last winter clearly showed us at Germany’s airports that Old Man Winter and his cohorts are further than ever from surrendering, even in the face of our latest equipment. In the coming cold season and the years thereafter, snow, ice and slush will again cause delays at Munich Airport and other European hubs. For passenger airports, safety is the top priority. Naturally this is equally – or even more – the case under winter conditions.

LABOUR INTENSIVE With our winter services, which are both labor and material intensive, we at Munich Airport ensure that flight operations can be carried out as smoothly and punctually as possible even under inclement conditions. However, especially during heavy snowfall, flight schedules are still thrown into confusion on a regular basis because these weather conditions inevitably cause temporary losses in capacity. For example, both runways at Munich Airport have to close several times daily on these “snow days” to be cleared. These weather events also stretch the capacity of air traffic controllers because they are forced to widen the gaps between arrival and departure slots for safety reasons. Consequently, despite enormous efforts, delays and cancellations cannot always be avoided. The airport operating company (FMG in Munich) closely coordinates all measures with air traffic control and the airlines to assess weather-related restrictions and take mitigating action well ahead of time.

BE PREPARED Thanks to its geographic location, Munich Airport has decades of experience in winter services. It gets ready for extreme winter conditions far in advance, and from

18 / AF /January 2014

mid-October onward has the required equipment, material and trained personnel on hand to respond as rapidly, efficiently and flexibly as possible to the sudden arrival of winter. The preparatory work gets underway as soon as the previous cold season ends. Experience gained during that time is integrated into the deployment plans and concepts. Managers analyze problems and develop solutions. The fleet of vehicles and equipment is maintained and upgraded with the latest technologies. Employee training begins in September. All of the storage depots for Munich Airport’s winter services are topped up: 600,000 liters of liquid de- icing agent, 100 tons of granular de-icing agent, 600 tons of sharp sand as well as 800 tons of crushed stone and 300 tons of salt for roads and pathways in the airport’s public areas.

This year, on-call duty for our airport’s winter services

personnel started back in mid- October. They wait for the big day and are then ready to start work immediately. The most important task for our winter services is keeping the runways, taxiways, aprons and the related service roads free of ice. Snow removal and de-icing of these areas is handled mostly by mechanical means, and also with de-icing agents when necessary. Munich Airport’s winter services have up to 170 team members per shift operating their special vehicles. The two runways – each four kilometers long and 60 meters wide – and the taxiways are constantly cleared of ice and snow by a total of 24 airblast sweepers, six snow plows and other sprayers and grit spreading vehicles. It takes just 25 minutes to clear a runway at Munich Airport.

ARMY OF WORKERS The Munich Airport Winter Services can draw on a pool of 550 employees. This includes a total of 40 full-time FMG employees who are allocated to Winter Services and are primarily assigned leadership and supervisory tasks, as well as 40 extra staff employed in each winter period under seasonal contracts. Providing the human resources backbone of the airport’s Winter Services are some 460 farmers and truckers from the immediate vicinity of the airport. Working with more than 130 of their

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