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23rd to 24th February 2015

“Snow how” event in Helsinki finishes on a high note

More than 140 delegates from the international airport community attended the  Winter Operations and Airside Safety Europe (WOASE) 2015 conference and airside exhibition at Helsinki Airport in Finland this week.

The event was a great success and featured winter operations experts from Europe, North America and Canada. There were 21 different presentations during the two-day event covering key areas such as A-CDM, environment and climate and the use of outside contractors and seasonal workers.

There were also a number of best practice “snow how” sessions from  airport specialists at host sponsor Helsinki as well as Toronto, Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Amsterdam Schiphol, Stockholm Arlanda, Munich and Heathrow.

The event also featured top quality speakers from NASA Langley Research Centre, and a keynote address on A-CDM related to winter operations from EUROCONTROL.

The event concluded with an airside demonstration of de-icing and snow clearing equipment at Helsinki featuring a range of suppliers who sponsored the conference.

Airport Focus would like to thank all the speakers, sponsors and delegates who helped make the event such a great success. We are already planning the next WOASE so watch this space for announcements.

A full report of the conference and exhibition will appear in the next edition of Airport Focus.

Our Sponsors


An overview of the perfect host.

Smooth winter maintenance

If you are looking to learn from some of the world’s most experienced experts in winter operations, look no further than Helsinki Airport. Being the land of snow and ice, Finland’s entire airport network and infrastructure have been planned with extreme weather conditions in mind.

The Airport’s winter preparations start very early – in May – and the Winter season at Helsinki Airport lasts from October to April. In winter conditions, the job is never finished – the same work has to be done over and over again. That is why the Airport practices and develops its winter maintenance methods continuously, even during summer.

Excellent people, excellent equipment

For the winter, the regular maintenance staff of 80 is supplemented by 40 seasonal workforce, who are recruited and trained already in early autumn.

Winter operations are done with around 15 employees per work shift, but when snowfall is predicted the number is doubled. Cleaning up heavy snowfall can take as long as two weeks: the snow is carried away, the signs and Instrument Landing System areas are cleaned, and the storage areas are cleared for new snowfalls. The snow is also separated in areas where airplanes are present.

Finavia has a comprehensive winter equipment list specifically designed for use in Helsinki Airport: a fleet of 10 PSB5500 sweepers, 6 high-power snow blowers, 6 combi-spreaders, 4 runway friction tester vehicles, 3 ILS area snow blowers and a variety of trucks and cars. Special equipment for the apron area includes sweepers and reserve SB sweepers, spreaders for chemicals and sand, a front sweeper, suction sweepers and snow blowers. Finavia has also specialized snow clearing know-how in the organization. A repair service is in full operation 24/7.

The weather prediction system is based on sensors on the runways, providing information on projected weather changes usually for many hours ahead. Close operations with Finnish Meteorological Institute and their weather forecasts also helps the work shift planning.


The secret to excellent winter maintenance in Helsinki is cooperation between all airport actors.

Close interaction between the winter maintenance team and air traffic control is inevitable to ensure the airside is clear of snow, snow clearing equipment works as flexibly as possible without causing disruption to air traffic and flights operate without delays.

Prepare and prevent

The runway de-icing approach in Helsinki Airport is based on preventative methods. The spreading of additives is optimized as timing is critical because the runways can’t be used while the aftercare is taking place.

Using chemical additives brings some technical difficulties and de-icing liquids can be very disruptive when they come into contact with electrical connectors, whether that is lighting systems or winter service equipment. A lot of preventative maintenance work needs to be done with electric parts and components, and condition checks carried out on a regular basis.

Safety and environmental consciousness

While Helsinki Airport is already among the global leaders in this field, some changes that will help speed up and improve things even further are planned. A new centralized de-icing area for the airplanes will be built to enable apron areas to be cleaned more effectively.

Helsinki Airport is constantly developing more environmentally sustainable technologies and procedures for extreme winter conditions. In new terminal areas, some aircraft stands are heated with district heating network return water, while others are partly heated electrically. There are also special units available for absorbing and removing used glycol.

Helsinki Airport is, once again, more than well prepared for winter. The quality and experiences Helsinki Airport has gained throughout the years may will certainly act as an example to any airport in the world. Let it snow.

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Contact information

55 North Limited
19 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 6AY, Scotland

Office time: 9am – 5.30pm
(+44) 0141 222 2100

Cara Begley – Events & Operations Manager
(+44) 0141 222 5381 | cbegley@55north.com

Chloe Buchanan – Events & Operations Assistant
(+44) 0141 222 5383 | cbuchanan@55north.com

Gary Mason – Editor, Airport Focus

Antony Begley – Managing Director, 55 North & JLD Media