When it snows, a 3.6-kilometre-long and 46-metre-wide runway can be cleared in 20 minutes. With military precision, between eight and fourteen snowplows and sweepers move in a carefully planned pattern, driving in a staggered convoy at speeds of up to 40 kilometres an hour. Whilst snow is removed from the runways, the other roads in the airport area are also cleared so aircraft can taxi safely all the way to the terminal.
In the winter half of the year, a crew of six are on duty 24 hours a day, ready to keep the airport roads and runways free of ice and snow. At its highest level of preparedness, the airport can clear snow constantly for four whole days, with 50 workers on duty per 24-hour day.
In cold winters with lots of ice and snow, the snow-clearing crew have a great deal of work to do. Heavy snowfall can mean lots of hours of overtime for the crew, which is why they call snow "white gold".
The airport is monitored 24 hours a day, and when possible, preparations are made for a change in weather so that airport operations are not disrupted. Good equipment and a well-trained crew are necessary to ensure optimal operational reliability, so a great deal is invested in their training and further education.
Copenhagen Airport also has many specially designed vehicles to handle snow and ice control and management, vehicles that were specially developed in a close collaboration with their manufacturer. Representatives from airports all over the world visit Copenhagen to see and test this equipment.
Prevention of slippery surfaces
In 1999, Copenhagen Airport set up an ice warning system based on an intelligent computer system that can predict snow, sleet and freezing rain more precisely than ever before. Copenhagen is the first airport in the world to set up a system of this kind.
The warning system collects meteorological information from 28 sensors and four weather stations at various airport locations, and with its help, the airport crew can predict with a high degree of certainty whether it is necessary to apply de-icing agents an hour before the precipitation is expected. Along with the other tools and observations, the warning system does not simply ensure the operational reliability of the airport; it also helps reduce the amount of de-icing agents necessary to prevent slippery surfaces. The preventive use of de-icing agents requires only 50 per cent of the chemicals that would have to be used to de-ice the same surfaces once freezing rain has formed.