Ice and Snow. What can we learn from Scandinavia? Oslo airport. Gardermoen.
At around the same time Manchester airport was being closed due to snow and bad weather, the weather was not so different in Oslo and flights were leaving on time. Not so many are aware that Norway is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost all all the three Scandinavian countries and has a population of only 5 million, mostly Norwegian people. And it also is a country without an official religon having separated from the church in 2012. And humble Oslo is only the 17th busiest airport in Europe with 24.2 million passengers in 2014. About half the airport operator’s income is from retail revenue. There are twenty places to eat or drink, in addition to stores and other services including banks and post. In all, 8,000 square metres (86,000 sq ft) are used for restaurants, stores and non-aviation services. And yesterday it felt like an expedition to get through the duty free zone to anywhere near a departure gate. But as Oslo airport is connected to 162 other airports, maybe I can excuse the retail element. This of course has nothing to do with why the airport functions when all others close down.
The reality is pride and equipment and foresight.In Nordic Countries, Skill at Keeping Airports Open Through Blizzards Is a Point of Pride. Winter can last 6 months and airplane de-icing starts in august.Across the chilly water, on the bleak Svalbard archipelago in the Norwegian arctic, winter temperatures can drop to -55C. In winter, airport employees work round-the-clock shifts, at the first sight of snow.
Another Nordic secret: pushing producers for absurdly powerful equipment. Oslo Airport runs two of the world’s largest self-propelled snowblowers, built by Norwegian airport-equipment maker Øveraasen AS. Only two other of the TV2000 units operate at airports; they, too, are in Norway.The 2,000-horsepower machines can shoot 10,000 tons of snow an hour more than 150 feet from the tarmac.
So we can say that foresight, effort and equipment play major roles in explaining why Scandinavian airports stay open , but also airport capacity . Heathrow for example, one of the worlds worst airports in my opinion, operates to 98% capacity and thus even small disruptions can be chaotic. Stockholm Arlanda has over 40 people dedicated to snow clearing during the winter.The airport has 18 PSB (ploughing, sweeping, blowing) machines. These are followed by snow throwers which move the line of snow left by the PSBs. Behind these come friction measuring vehicles that test the likelihood of skidding on the runway.