Clariant brings de-icing community together

posted on 27th June 2018

In June, de-icing fluid supplier Clariant held a conference on the subject of on-airport de-icing, an event that attracted many of the big players in that sector to Vienna. Airside’s Harley Khan reports from the two-day meeting in the Austrian capital

Thursday 12 June was an important date for football enthusiasts – the opening and first match of the FIFA 2014 World Cup – but it also marked the start o f the Clariant De-icing Conference 2014. The world of aircraft de-icing and snow and ice removal was in for an informative treat as Switzerland-headquartered Clariant hosted the conference at the charming Flemings hotel in Vienna. It was a celebration of the success of aviation de-icing around the world, while also serving to identify the importance of technological advancements within the sector. Experts and business owners from the US, Canada and Europe addressed an audience made up mainly of airports, airlines and ground handlers to discuss what needs to be done to ensure aircraft operations can continue safely during even the harshest of winter conditions.

In the chair

Nigel Westlake, head of aviation EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at Clariant and a speaker at Airside International’s GSE Buyers and Ramp Ops Conference earlier this year, acted as chairman for the event. It was the task of Westlake’s colleague, Stephanie Hochreuther, to begin proceedings with a full review of the SAE G-12 meeting in Madrid this year (the G-12 serves as the focal point for all ground de-icing activities within SAE International, a global association of engineers and other technicians active in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries).

The main topics of the meeting, she reported, were: adding colour to the different types of de-icing fluid; clarification of multiple location sites; standardising the practice of viscosity measurement; and discussing on-board blending using Vestergaard trucks. The Conference also heard from Jonathan Dutton from the UK Met Office, who offered a technical analysis of this year’s incongruent weather conditions, from the harsh and unforgiving winter in North America to the mild and stormy conditions seen in Europe. At the Met’s headquarters in Exeter, England, is a large mainframe of data by which weather analysis can be collated and scrutinised to great effect.

After a coffee break, the Conference heard from Michael Chaput, CEO of SureWx, a Montreal-based company that provides its Deicing Information Service to airports around the world. He spoke of how advancements in technology that allow the collection of precise weather measurements enable SureWx to compute at any given moment an accurate aircraft holdover time for any de/anti-icing fluid currently on the market using both on-site hardware and integrated software. Not only does SureWx provide the solution to assist a de-icing operation, but it also offers a complete service of product training, regulatory certification, support and auditing, Chaput explained.

Next up were Peter Berger and Horst Kahlbacher, the former sales export manager and the latter CEO of winter machinery manufacturer Kahlbacher, who gave a description of their snow ploughs and snow blowers. Operating across the world, the Kahlbacher name has been synonymous with hydraulic and hydrostatic machinery for 65 years, they say.

Jeff Gaskill of Liquid Automation Systems then provided great insight into how the efficiency of de-icing fluid can be dramatically enhanced through the use of blending systems. He demonstrated how LAS can offer a highly accurate and cost-effective fluid management system.

Fredrik Graflind of Airport Surface Friction Tester (ASFT) then gave a presentation on the importance of friction testing when assessing the performance (and so the safety margin) of an icy airport runway. The use of weather information systems, friction testers and sensors all help to build up an accurate picture for any airport operator working in wintry conditions, he points out.

Following Graflind, Juha Fieandt from F&P Aviation Traders spoke on the process of auditing de-icing companies and ground handlers. Fieandt advised the audience on the best ways of preparing for and then handling the process, as well as giving detail on the in-depth content of an audit. Finally, the Conference heard of how the aviation sector can become better at collecting waste glycol from industry expert Thomas Bergstrom.

Once official business was over for the day, the Conference attendees were taken on a tour of the city’s classical architecture and historic buildings in a vintage tram. The last stop was a cosy Viennese ‘Heurige’, or wine tavern, where everyone wound down as the sun set. As the evening coincided with the start of the 2014 World Cup, a sizeable majority then made their way to the city’s Stadtpark to watch the whole thing on large projectors.

Back to business

The next day, back at the Conference, began with a presentation from Anders Larsen of Vestergaard that highlighted the effectiveness of the company’s de-icing trucks and how the company has made continuous, precise improvements to their equipment over the years.

Oliver Binz from Gohler next offered attendees a case study on airport de-icing fluid storage and handling at the German capital’s new Berlin Brandenburg Airport. He spoke about how Gohler designed the three de-icing fluid plants and piping networks there.

The Conference then heard the perspective of the airlines. Lasse Hatinen from Finnair spoke on the 900 million euro (US$1.2 billion) investment going into upgrading Helsinki Airport, both terminal and on the ramp. Helsinki is also centralising its de-icing operations, he explained. Slavko Ljoljic from Austrian Airlines then gave an informative presentation on de-icing training and stressed the importance of having trained and qualified staff working through a carefully planned process.

The honour of final speaker fell to Christopher Strand, safety manager at Fraport, who explained that it is vital for industry stakeholders to be aware of the risks involved with the banning of formate and acetate runway de-icing materials due to the alleged effects they have on carbon brake materials. Although carbon brake oxidation is a concern, he noted, it can be mitigated through correct maintenance. The consequences of the banning of currently used de-icing materials will be much more severe for many in the industry, especially airports, Strand considers.

By the end of the Conference, it had become abundantly clear over the two days that the scientific and technical aspects of de-icing have come on in leaps and bounds, and that Clariant has played its part, not least in bringing everybody together for this event.