The snow and cold temperatures have maintained a steady grip on Europe and large parts of the northern hemisphere. Britain has been hit by the harshest winter weather in 30 years and in Germany, people are being advised to stock up on food and medicines, while Frankfurt Airport, the third largest in Europe, was recently forced to cancel more than 200 flights in one single day. Even countries like the USA and China have been struck by some unusually extreme winter weather.
At Arlanda Airport just outside 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 tonnes of cargo were 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 Plough, Sweep and Blow, and they are based on Volvo Construction Equipment’s A25D articulated hauler. At the front of the vehicle is a 7.3 metre wide plough 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. By driving nine such machines alongside each other, it is possible to clear a 3.3 kilometre long and 45 metre wide runway in less than ten minutes.
“This makes us the world’s fastest airport snow-plough team,” says Stefan Sundkvist, field coordinator at Arlanda Airport.
In addition to the Volvo A25D, there is a fleet of Volvo wheel loaders which are equipped with snow-ploughs, sweepers and snow blowers in the winter.
“Volvo’s machines are compact and easy to handle, which was decisive in our choice of product,” says Stefan Sundkvist.
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 precise take-off and landing times, so too do the sweepers get a precisely calculated slot in the air traffic to clear the snow and ice off the tarmac.
“We have a total of 250,000 square metres 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 tiniest detail,” says Stefan Sundkvist.
Facts about snow-clearing operations at Arlanda Airport: