As winter thaws out airport operators are already looking at available solutions to enhance snow removal capabilities in readiness for the next big freeze.
The start of 2012 was met with an especially frosty reception in some regions of the world particularly Central and Eastern Europe where temperatures dipped to minus double digit figures. Rough winters such as these have proved lucrative for some manufactures of snow removal equipment such as Øveraasen.
The Norwegian company reports that the last couple of winters created a big interest in powerful and reliable snow removal equipment and this translated into a large increase in sales during 2011.
Recent trends show that airport operators are increasingly looking a t snow removal equipment that is multifunctional or multi seasonal by nature. This supposedly allows airports to utilise them more efficiently. The technical team at Øveraasen were challenged to incorporate such flexibility into their recently unveiled piece of snow blowing equipment.
“Our TV 360 H Multi is basically a mono-block attachment snow blower for wheel loaders,” says Jan Ivar Thorsrud, research and development manager at Øveraasen. “The blower has a hydrostatic transmission between the diesel engine and the blower head and with only a few bolts and nuts; you can split the power pack from the blower head.
“This opens the possibility to mount the power pack in the rear end of the vehicle for better weight balance. Independent of what vehicle you use, you can also utilise the TV 360H Multi during summer and use the vehicle for other tasks, says Thorsrud.
A closer look at the technology shows that the design consists of two main modules; the dual stage blower head and the power pack which can be combined in accordance to the operator’s requirements. Thorsrud explained that the blower head is designed based on several years of experience with dual-stage snow blowers.
“The power pack is very compact, but at the same time it is easy to maintain because there is easy access to all necessary maintenance points. The TV 360H Multi is designed with few and robust components and it’s actually a very reliable machine,” he said.
Denver International Airport (DIA) began looking at multi-functional equipment back in 2003 says Ron Morin, director of field maintenance. “Over the years we continued to bring the equipment on site, evaluate, test, run, and get operator and mechanic feedback so we could better understand the pros and cons of having multifunctional equipment in our system.”
After the infamous December 2006 snow blizzard that closed DIA for two days, Morin says that experience brought about the opportunity to revamp snow removal procedures. “DIA now has 16 Boschungs vehicles and 25 tow-behind brooms and we have experienced great results. We took our single function snow teams and transformed them into multifunctional snow teams to reduce runway occupancy times from 30 to 45 minutes to 13 to 15 minutes.”
Halifax International Airport (HIAA) has taken a similar approach. The winter at HIAA can change in a matter of mere hours and even minutes. The airport’s field maintenance team is continuously challenged to handle weather related problems.
Clayton Maynard, manager for airside services at the Halifax International Airport Authority says that HIAA opted for equipment expressly designed for winter use, but there is room for some flexibility. “Our new sweepers are considered multifunctional as each unit has a large wide plough out front, a large wire bristle broom to brush off the snow left by the plough and a high capacity air blower at the rear to take care of anything the broom stirs up.”
Maynard says it’s all done with one piece of equipment with fewer wheels on the ground as compared to separate plough trucks and sweeper blower trucks. “Every wheel on the ground compacts snow onto the runway surface and the fewer wheels on the ground the better,” he adds. HIAA undertook an extensive research program to investigate and procure snow removal equipment that would increase the service levels provided to its clients during any type of winter event.
Aebi Schmidt, the German-based manufacturer of specialist vehicles is behind the successful winter operations at Stockholm Arlanda International Airport, contributing both equipment and know-how. Arlanda has a relatively good record for keeping runways open during the winter.
René Wender, product manager de-Icing at Aebi Schmidt explains that as airports begin the process of planning for the 2012/2013 winter season, snow removal technology solutions are already available. “All our equipment are designed in such a way that it can be used for high-speed snow removal and de-icing, without compromising safety, efficiency and accuracy aspects. All our equipment can be delivered as a multipurpose or demountable system. That means that trucks for spreaders/liquid de-ices can be used for summer maintenance.”
Wender explains that the Jet Sweeper TJS-560C is a popular piece of equipment that clears the airport service areas in three steps; “Firstly, the multi-blade snow plough pushes the snow, then the rotary brush sweeps the remaining snow aside. Finally, the hydraulically operated blower unit generates an intensive air flow, which blows the remaining snow and liquid aside with high speed pressure. The towing part of the TJS can be used for towing dumper bodies and so on.”
The TJS 560C is developed in co-operation with VOLVO and Aebi Schmidt claims that’s it is the world’s first Co2 neutral snow removal machine. “Every reduction of Co2 is appreciated by operators,” reports Wender. “It’s about two major issues; sustainability and economic well being. The amount of Co2 wasted may give a clue on how sufficient a system works. The more efficient and enterprise, the less energy and resources are needed. Then there is legislation-the European Union will put up pressure towards the climate debate in the future.”
Aebi Schmidt have also developed the self-propelled snow cutter blower (Supra) for blowing snow from airport runways, taxiways and aprons, it can also load snow onto trucks.
In September 2011 Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) signed a deal with Fortbrand Services Inc, for the purchase of ten Vammas PSB 5500 multifunction snow removal vehicles. The units are scheduled for delivery to DFW prior to the 2012/2013 winter period.
Fortbrand indicates that the Finland manufactured Vammas PSB machines have demonstrated reliability in clearing runways within predictable minimal time frames that has resulted in aircraft arrival rate increases and substantial savings in delay costs to airlines. In fact, Boston Logan Airport is equipped with 10 such Vammas vehicles that can sweep a runway down to the bare pavement in about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how heavy the snow is. The monstrous Vammas works in three stages: it pushes the snow aside, scrubs the tarmac with spinning steel brushes and scours it with hot air.
Alan Stearn, executive vice president at Fortbrand says since the Vammas was introduced in Europe in 1992 and North American in 1998, new technologies have been added to the design. “New technology incorporated into the PSB 550 includes a polyethylene flexible mouldboard plough and a 46” wafer broom. The plough’s flexible mouldboard casts a low profile roll out of snow, resulting is a low flat controlled windrow. The 46” wafer broom has two large centre wheels engineered to eliminate caster wheel shimmy and vibration during high speed operation.”
Along with the Dallas deliveries, a total of 91 Vammas PSB 5500 and PSB 4500 vehicles have been delivered, or on order at 13 major airports in North America. Stearn reports that multifunction capability is the way forward. “Virtually every major airport is presently, or will be, using multifunction equipment,” he said.
Halifax Stanfield is among the 13 airports in North America that have invested in the PSB 5500. “The older snow removal equipment, fine in its day, was so slow at its assigned task that air traffic controllers often would order the equipment off the field to make way for departing or arriving aircraft,” recalls Clayton Maynard.
“Once off the active runway surfaces, the old style equipment would have to wait until the aircraft movements were done before going back to work. There wasn’t time for this equipment to move over and remove snow from inactive surfaces and then return to the active runway when the flights were done.” Maynard is content with the new high speed equipment now in place that allows the winter maintenance crews to dramatically decrease the amount of time spent clearing the snow from the active manoeuvring surfaces.
He adds: “One of the new sweepers has been able to achieve in thirteen minutes what normally took up to eighteen minutes. The new equipment does not need to sit idle as it can make full passes up a runway in a timely fashion, work back down a taxiway and return to the start of the process once again.”
There is also the cost issue; Thorsrud from Øveraasen points out that for example, “a self propelled snow blower is an expensive piece of equipment.”However, he says that airport operators have cost options. “Many airports are not willing to use that much money for snow clearing. If the airport has a suitable wheel loader or truck, they can attach a TV 360 H Multi to it. They will then have a high capacity snow blower available with a much smaller investment.”
In terms of new development and future investment in snow clearing technologies, Øveraasen has a continuous development strategy. Thorsrud hints that the next few years will see changes in diesel technology with emphasis on lower emission and lower fuel consumption.
The big snow blowers are some of the most crucial pieces of equipment during winter due to the amount of snow that needs to be cleared. On occasion, such critical equipment can unexpectedly be sidelined for repairs when needed most.
A shortage in capacity to blow out snow can lead to problems such as the inability to keep friction levels on the runway or taxiway; but Ron Morin from Denver airport believes that any good snow removal operation should allow contingencies for failed equipment. “To give you an example, at DIA we have a number of pieces of equipment that are not frontline; older units are kept as spares for this reason.
“One of the key decisions that airports must make is right-sizing blower purchases to ensure that you are getting the type of blower needed to deal with the tonnages of snow you may need to blow off a taxiway or runway area.” As a side note Morin adds that the fleet of sweepers, sand and other chemicals used at DIA help in keeping the coefficient of friction values as high as possible during snow events.
At Halifax Stanfield the purchase of a new high speed snow blower keeps up with the increased work created by the new high speed sweepers. “To this end, it has met the challenge,” says Maynard. “However in the event of a mechanical failure, sufficient spare parts were received with the machine and our mechanical staff has taken extensive training in the operation and service of all the new machinery.”
He adds that with sufficient spares, and despite the substantial amount of time required to remedy the fault, the equipment operator can fire up another unit and be back on the field in an expedient fashion.
Preparations at Denver International are in full swing for the 2012/2013 winter. “We are always looking and working with vendors on enhancing snow removal equipment capabilities,” says Morin. Details provided by DIA for the next winter include swapping out 16 of the 3,000 ton per hour (tph) blowers with 5,000 tph blowers. “This will bring the DIA fleet in line with the rest of the blowers that we have on site. This will also help us to maintain our runway occupancy times during heavier snow events or heavier rates per hour during snow storms.”
DIA will also be swapping out seven front-mounted ploughs and replacing them with two tow-behind multifunction units. “We are upgrading or replacing four of our runway sanders and we are upgrading or replacing three of our runway chemical de-icer units,” Morin concludes.