Preparing for the big freeze
Across Europe, the winter conditions of recent years can be distinguished by their diverse unpredictability. From bitingly glacial to foggy and inclement, it is clear that in the winter months Europe’s airports must be prepared for every possible incidence where weather is concerned. An airport’s capability to maintain operations in even the fiercest weather is increasingly serving as an estimation of its quality – those with reduced delays, less waiting, and fewer cancellations becoming the terminals of choice for carriers and passengers – while cancelled services can mean sacrificing thousands in lost revenues and productivity.
“Many airports are judged on their readiness for winter operations, so the better the systems they have in place the better the ratings they will get from users and passengers. Safety must never be compromised, so with better systems available, airports will be able to operate as close to normal as possible even during a snowstorm,” said Lars Barsøe, Sales Manager, Vestergaard, whose industry-leading Elephant deicing vehicles ensure stable handling and safe aircraft take-offs.
Continuing to drive forward innovation in the industry, Vestergaard has developed a solution that enables the ultimate in accurate deicing. Its Precise Positioning System (PPS) anchors the nozzle at one metre from an aircraft surface, using sensors to ensure that the nozzle does not touch the aircraft surface when engaged. The system aids the operator to stay within this most optimal distance, helping to save on both fluids and time needed for the deicing operation.
“The PPS saves on fluids and thus energy and environment,” Barsøe commented. “Because the system also speeds up the deicing, there will be less taxiing and waiting with engines running, again saving the environment, and decreasing congestion on aprons.” Vestergaard’s enterprising solutions are also benefitting its clients financially. Its ‘hot-at-nozzle’ feature ensures hot fluids at the nozzle at all times – even following a break – so an operator does not waste 40-50 litres when a new deicing job is started.
Deicing fluids are instrumental in ensuring that airports can keep the level of disruption to a minimum in the face of severe weather, and in guaranteeing a safe take-off. Gary Lydiate, Chief Executive of trailblazing anti/deicer manufacturer Kilfrost, explained: “Frozen contaminants can cause aircraft wings to be coarse and uneven, disrupting the smooth flow of air, increasing drag and reducing the ability to generate lift. In addition, if large blocks of ice become dislodged during take-off, this presents a serious risk to engines and propellers. It is also essential that engine inlets and sensors on the exterior of an aircraft are free from ice or snow.”
Trusted by major airports, airlines and ground handling crews across the globe for more than 80 years, Kilfrost supplies an industry-leading range of Type I, Type II and Type IV glycol fluids – including the world’s first bio-derived sustainable fluid, Kilfrost DFsustain – and also offers training and support to its customers. Kilfrost has worked closely with China Eastern Airlines, for example, in the establishment of its own laboratory for analysing the quality of de/anti-icing fluids. As well as offering training on the testing methods available, Kilfrost has also advised the company on how to meet European regulations.
During the 2012/2013 winter period Kilfrost, which currently manages a third of the world’s aircraft de/anti-icing fluid needs, delivered over 1,400 tankers of fluid to airports worldwide, and its latest innovation goes even further in ensuring the best performance of its de/anti-icing fluids. “It is essential that the correct ratio of inhibited glycol fluid to water is calculated to enable optimum performance of de/anti-icing fluids,” Lydiate said. “Consequently, Kilfrost recently launched the Freeze Point Calculator tool, which enables the user to quickly and efficiently determine an accurate freeze point dilution rate. This will ensure that the correct dilution of de/anti-icing fluid is applied to an aircraft when cold weather hits.” The new device will save valuable time, and can be used in the field so that airport operation is maintained at all times and especially during harsh winter conditions, keeping aircraft moving in even the deepest freeze.