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BAA...Beyond A Joke

Old 2nd Feb 2009, 17:41
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BAA...Beyond A Joke

Having had ample warning of todays snow, as usual, Heathrow grinds to a halt causing misery for many passengers and huge losses for all airlines concerned.

I can understand to a point that the country cannot have the same resources outside of airports as they do, in say Scandinavia, not having the same levels of bad weather. But when it comes to keeping an airport operational 24/7/365, then Heathtrow and many other uk airports should have the machinery and resources for every eventuality.

Keeping 2 miles of runway clear, surely cannot be beyond the capabilty of a multi million pound organisation such as the BAA. RAF airfields use snow blowers and even jet engines on trolleys to clear ice and snow. Why can't they?

I used to spend some time up in northern Finland at Oulu airport. A small regional field but you could almost count on it being open in the worst of conditions.

Quite recently at Gatwick, the BAA failed to de-ice the runway causing mayhem. Virgin Atlantic are in the process of court action over it and maybe this is the way ahead?

BAA seems to be all take and no give to its captive audience and perhaps a few law suits would make it wake up and give the traveling public the service it deserves.

Coop & Bear

Last edited by coopervane; 2nd Feb 2009 at 17:56.
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 18:29
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One wouldnt want to stand in the way of BAA running their shopping centres now, would one?!

All those aircraft are just an inconvenience to them
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 18:35
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CooperV,

You raise a good point. To deal with this effectively requires a complete infrastructure that will keep everything moving. It does exist in many places.

I can see a case for closing an airport if nobody (staff, pax, engineers etc.) can get there, but much of the value of LHR is people connecting from aircraft to aircraft.

For a rare event like this it therefore makes sense to keep the global network moving and keep airframes, crews and passengers where they should be in the world. Cost here is expensive for sure, but putting up a few B747, A330, B777, A340 full of stranded pax in nice hotels is not cheap....

The irony is that airports like, Helsinki, Kittila etc. stay open..whilst LHR shuts without a fight. Much of this is surely linked to infrastructure outside the airport, but in the current climate:

1. Is collapsing the LHR network cheaper or more expensive overall for an airline?

2. Is there any compensation to be earned by an airline for the disruption?

3. Is there any worth for an airline to operate at a low pax capacity to maintain the integrity of the network? (in view of Q2 if relevant)

4. What should have happened today?

P.S. I don't subscribe to the shopping centre argument. If this was the case an airport would make sure the way to the airport was cleared, rather like changeover day in a Med resort where you get there only to realise you can't get to your room (plane)...so shopping the only fun to be had by a captive audience.

G
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 18:55
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As one who works where it snows 4 months out of 12, and where 25cm in a day isn't uncommon at all, I would humbly suggest that you don't realize all the implications of being ready to face such a weather event.

Where I worked, during a "snow event", additional staff was called in to coordinate along clear guidelines develloped over years of refining.... and they weren't perfect! Just deciding on what priority each bit of pavement got wasn't easy. It's great to plow and sweep the runways but when you can't use the taxiways you're in trouble. So you need crews for both. Sweeping also isn't enough as you'll quickly cover the edge lights so you need to think about having snow blowers as part of the convoy.

To top it off, you decide to taxi a bunch out of the deicing bay (you do have one right?) to your active only to learn that it's no longer useable since it's now too slippery. So until the trucks can lay down chemicals and do a couple passes on the runway to increase friction to a better level, their hold over time as gone by under the falling snow and they must return to deice.

Your arrival runway is now suffering the same fate and so holding time coming in increases as well.

What I described was at an airport that's ready for snow!! Imagine if yours isn't!

Continuous heavy snow operation is more than just having a few trucks to plow the runways. The costs of being ready for such an operation would be enormous and you still would see a markable decrease in efficiency. Would you want them to spend all that money and bring the tab to you? (They would anyway!)

Cheers,

Felix
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 19:10
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Very sensible reply there. Let's face it, with the way winters have been in the last 20 years, it frankly does not make economic sense covering the continual enormous expense of maintaining and storing a massive fleet of various snow removal equipment and the staff involved to man it all for the once in 15 or 20 years when it would actually be seriously needed in anger. Even when you have it all, you are still subject to serious delays. Better to take a couple of days of hell every so often. The southern UK just does not have a Chicago/Montreal/Stockholm type climate. I sometimes remark to my Scandinavian colleagues when they criticise the house insulation/glazing standards of the UK- we don't have a Scandinavian climate either!
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 19:37
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I sometimes remark to my Scandinavian colleagues when they criticise the house insulation/glazing standards of the UK- we don't have a Scandinavian climate either!
Not until the Gulf stream reverses, at least...
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 19:45
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Rainboe is spot on (again!)

greuzi
For a rare event like this it therefore makes sense to keep the global network moving and keep airframes, crews and passengers where they should be in the world. Cost here is expensive for sure, but putting up a few B747, A330, B777, A340 full of stranded pax in nice hotels is not cheap....
The problem there is that the infrastructure cost is BAA in outlay and then to reclaim. If they close the place - the bulk of the costs hit the carriers. Of course, BAA lose handling fees and other stuff but they do not have to pay for pax/crew hotac nor the problem of a/c being in the wrong place and causing problems over the next week as they catch up. (I sit to be corrected)
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 20:57
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I think it's also pretty harsh to bash BAA in this thread's title when you consider most UK airports have suffered, along with the rail, underground, London bus network. As said we just don't experience weather like this very often (worst snow in 18 years according to the news) and we're just not geared up for it. It would be too costly and a great waste of money to invest for such a short lived event.
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 22:33
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I would love to see any of you having a dig at BAA drive up and down a runway fighting a loosing battle!

Its not that easy to just get staff for a couple of days work, and as for health and safety, I dont think they would like the idea of jet engines doing it.

Well done to all the guys/women who brave the weather out there! You can only do your best!
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Old 2nd Feb 2009, 23:01
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As Felix said.....
As one who works where it snows 4 months out of 12, and where 25cm in a day isn't uncommon at all, I would humbly suggest that you don't realize all the implications of being ready to face such a weather event.

Where I worked, during a "snow event", additional staff was called in to coordinate along clear guidelines develloped over years of refining.... and they weren't perfect! Just deciding on what priority each bit of pavement got wasn't easy. .............. hold over time as gone by under the falling snow and they must return to deice.

Your arrival runway is now suffering the same fate and so holding time coming in increases as well.

What I described was at an airport that's ready for snow!! Imagine if yours isn't!
In simple terms it seems to be the case that BAA were plainly not ready for the volume of snow that arrived.

Fail to Plan = Planning to Fail.

I completely agree that it is both unreasonable and uneconomic to hold an infinite resource on standby just in case a particular situation turns up, in this case snow clearing equipment for today. But had BAA been a bit more proactive with pre-travel warnings and pre-emptive consolidations of flights in consultation with the airlines, then much of the disruption could have been "managed" out of existence.

I would hope that in the light of the present financial situation and the previous upsets to the industry that contingency planning would be second nature to the airlines and airport operators, but there seems to be a great lack of communication.

I'm sorry if I seem to be preaching, but getting (often competing) international sites & companies to talk to each other and put contingency plans into place as things will [not might] go wrong is part of what I do for a living.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 00:10
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Airlines, co-operate, you must be joking. It's usually easier to just cancel everything as BA do, all to often.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 01:32
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BAA

I made a point of the BAA as they always fall short of delivering the goods. I have never met such a bunch of jobsworths in all my time in aviation.

Was amazed how clean they came out of the T5 fiasco. BA took it on the chin but it was their (BAA) contract and their responsibility to ensure it was fit for purpose. As was the security issues and baggage handling machinery.

In short, the BAA more than any other UK operator should, considering the monoply and shear profits they make deliver the goods and quite frankly they fall far short.

A comment earlier about the health and safely issues of using jet engine de ice equipment on runways. Like anything else, with training it can be a safe and effective way of clearing a surface. Ask the RAF.

Excuses galore about why the airport closed will no doubt be made public but working at the place only underlines how little the BAA do when it comes to doing the things that really matter. One incident just the other week comes to mind. 747 comes onto a busing stand. 300 plus come down the steps and slip and slide to the bus on untreated concrete. Whats that all about?

T5 is all nice and sparkly but T3 is a disgrace. Money spent on tarting up the front of it when inside, toilets overflow, airbridges leak when it rains and the state of the arrival areas makes me embarrassed when people see their first view on Britain as they get off the plane.

I hope the Airlines take them to the cleaners, i Really do.

Coop and Bear
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 03:34
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Gents,

Take a look at the EMA thread to see how its done. BAA go and speak to Simon and the boys on how to keep an airport open. Perhaps one day BAA will actually get some operational people!
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 07:43
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All the BAA need to do is ask their own staff how they keep Aberdeen open.It gets the most snow of all the BAA airports,and probably the most in the UK.The MASU staff there do a great job keeping the place open,and have done so for over 30 years.
When snow hits this part of the world,it is never reported on national TV.We just get on with it.The hysteria that has broken out down south is causing a lot of amusement here.We don't have any,despite the dire doomladen warnings from the Met office.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 08:16
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In the aviation world it is a pretty lame excuse to say "oh it dosen't happen that often so we can't be as prepared for it as we would like".

Better not practice those 4 engine failure drills in the sim then...or we better not have any of these terrorist attack contingency plans in place...don't really need to practice radar failure scenarios etc etc. It hardly ever happens. Jeez!

You can say those are extreme situations....but today a major international airport CLOSED because it wasn't ready to deal with an expected scenario...be it rare or not. If something is expected...it should be planned for! The plan was inadequate....and yet people are happy to find excuses for it.

To quote Rainboe

Better to take a couple of days of hell every so often.
Why?? Cos we can't come up with something better? We can't cope??

An airport dealing with 60 million passengers a year in a western country serving a MAJOR capital. A couple of days hell?? A couple of days embarrassment....again!

Last edited by Married a Canadian; 3rd Feb 2009 at 08:39.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 08:28
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A comment earlier about the health and safely issues of using jet engine de ice equipment on runways. Like anything else, with training it can be a safe and effective way of clearing a surface. Ask the RAF.
First hand experience from '60s Vulcan bases. That was a silly idea. Looked and sounded effective, and it was fun - but it was just too slow.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 09:50
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Coopervane,
I'm not sure if you understand how snow clearing operations go at an airport.Even small airports can't be cleared at every nook and cranny.The runway and taxiways are the priorities.They can't do the all the aprons at the same time if there is a lot of snow falling.They do the aprons later.
You seem unduly harsh on the BAA.What about other airports in the firing line.As for the RAF, I did not see one of those in the sky yesterday despite their wonderful and fantasy snow blowing equipment.
What about the London buses,or underground that suspended all operations? At least Heathrow kept going on a single runway.It was the airlines that stopped flying into Heathrow.Flybe was still operating into Gatwick.Maybe you should be mentioning BA and BMI who just gave up,and left their passengers stranded.

Last edited by throw a dyce; 3rd Feb 2009 at 10:04.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 10:19
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RAF Snow Blowers 1964.

Each base has capable snow-ploughs and the RAF's remaining stocks of Derwent turbojets—relics, almost, of the crossbow age—have been converted in station workshops into snowblowers to remove to the grass the snow piles the ploughs have heaped. In last year's exceptionally long and severe winter Wittering was "snowed out" for one day only of the many when it had aircraft assigned to the (Nuclear) Quick Reaction Force, said the STO.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchi...0-%200390.html
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 10:45
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Before we get carried away on how the RAF does it, the MoD will not mind maintaining old motors and burning a few tons of fuel spent in order to maintain their task readiness. There is no comparison!

Donkey497
... But had BAA been a bit more proactive with pre-travel warnings and pre-emptive consolidations of flights in consultation with the airlines, then much of the disruption could have been "managed" out of existence.
That was how things were done 25 years ago but a big change started to affect ALL companies, in short, they moved from planning to avoid problems to just dealing with the problem when it occurred. The reason for this was money. Whilst there is a PR element, the cost of planning and provision is often higher than the cost of correction.

In the recession of 89/91 this plan gained acceptance as a way to save money. When the recession was over, no one wanted to start spending money on maintenance and preventative measures. Subsequently, this change in approach has now been adopted by large swathes of government too. The approach is this:
  • Save money
  • When it goes wrong: Send in the cavalry and apologise all over the place.
  • You may have to spend MORE money than you saved but, mostly, you don't.
  • Make a big PR of how much effort you put into fixing this once in a lifetime problem.
  • Rely on people having short memories and that, since customers are not as loyal as they used to be, why worry if some change their choice of supplier?
  • Those that saved the money (and caused the problem) are then promoted or given bonus'.
  • Those members of staff that warned of the impending problems are ignored, become disaffected and leave/take early retirement.
In the UK, this approach works very well - for the directors and many shareholders who are totally unaware of what is being done in their name, as long as the money comes in.
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Old 3rd Feb 2009, 11:53
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Paxboy - What a cynical post.

What a correct post.
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