Helsinki: What’s Wrong, Heathrow?

And this 2003 closure only lasted for half an hour, writes BBC.

An unusually heavy December, in regards to snowfall, has forced numerous European airports to close down for several days. The largest airport being Heathrow Airport close to London, England, where loads of flights have been cancelled during the latest heavy snowfall.

In Helsinki, Finland, the story is another.

The winter planes have been taking off and landing as normal, and this despite more than two feet of snowfall – or 65 centimetres.

Last year, the airport felt the wrath of 188 centrimetres of snow, and Annika Kala, Spokesperson for the Airport, believes that it will be another snowy winter this time. The airport is “well prepared” though, so she is relaxed, she explains to BBC.

“We have 250 vehicles of different kinds,” Annika Kala says.

In exceptional circumstances, two runways may be closed. It takes a rare combination of heavy snow and high wind to close all three. It only happened seven years ago, and only for half an hour.

“We have sweepers, snow ploughs, vehicles that blow snow from the runways, and friction testers that check the surface is fit for use,” Kala says.

The snow, writes BBC, is removed to a special storage area within the airport perimeter. When this fills up, it is taken to other facilities outside.

Temperatures in Helsinki can drop to -25 degrees celcius, but it is actually easier to deal with hard frost than a temperature of zero or -1C.

“When it’s zero degrees, it’s moist and there will be ice,” Annika Kala says.

“We have to take the ice away. We first use metal brushes, then, if necessary, we use chemicals.”

Helsinki is well prepared. Here, a dedicated “snow desk” keeps in contact with airlines, the ground handling team and air traffic control.

Although it definitely is another thing to deal with Heathrow Airport, which has twice as many landings and take-offs per day compared to Helsinki, the principles for dealing with snow and ice are probably the same, suggests Annika Kala.

Helskinki has 600 landings and take-offs per day on three runways. Heathrow has only to runways and five times as many passengers to deal with.

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