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Gary Mason visits Aebi Schmidt’s manufacturing plant in Baden-Württemberg’s Black Forest to discover how runway snow clearance vendors are meeting the current and future requirements of airports


he procurement and operation of big winter operations fl eets requires large capital outlay and therefore should involve a clear idea of what an airport’s requirements will

be in the longer term. While many airports are using equipment which has served its purpose, over a long period the requirement to operate more sustainable machinery and the introduction of automation technology which makes vehicles safer and easier to operate, is driving innovation among vendors. The airport part of ASH (Aebi Schmidt Holding) Group’s business

is not the biggest but is the fastest growing according to Thomas Pollul, Key Account Manager Airport Equipment & Military Projects. Big airports tend to buy big pieces of plant equipment in cycles and this is fuelling demand according to the company. “For some airports the winter operations fl eets are getting older and older and when they approach the end of their lifespan that is when there is a big punch in terms of demand ,” he says. This is not only the case for commercial airports but military ones as well. He says that a contract with the MoD in the UK is a good example of this. The defence department’s tow behind jet sweepers were 40 years old but because there is so little snow in the south of the UK during winter their end-of-shelf-life limitations were not an issue. But when Britain’s biggest military air base - Brize Norton - was shut for two

days because of snow, a decision was quickly taken to replace the whole fl eet within two to three years. Airports tend not to plan to replace their winter operations fl eets

over time. If they make a business case and draw the spending pro- fi le out they may run the risk of losing that procurement money so when they get the green light to make a big investment in winter operations kit they often decide to replace the entire fl eet of vehi- cles in one go. Mike Moore, the company’s international key account manager based in the UK, says that this is particularly the case with larger airports. “The older machines may last 20 years and while the mod- ern machines are very robust realistically I would say they have a 10 year life span. In the UK, because the equipment does not get used as much as it would in Germany or Sweden that working life gets extended of course.” Another way that a decision about a winter ops

fl eet may be forced on an airport is a change in the commercial dynamics of the business. An example of that

26 / AF / Nov/Dec 2016

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