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Heathrow and Snow

Old 16th Jan 2013, 15:06
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Heathrow and Snow

Not sure if this is the right forum for this query, so mods please move as appropriate.

A colleague is due into LHR from DUB on Saturday afternoon and we are due to get a long-haul to SGP that evening. Is there any likelihood that the airport is more prepared than last year regarding snow clearance? Clearance crews alerted? Better equipment? We are looking at juinking her Saturday flight and re-booking for Friday to make sure she's at least here for the outbound flight.

Your professional comments would be welcome, as time's getting a bit short and an alternate involves a night ferry and a four hour wait for a train in the small hours at Holyhead.
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Old 16th Jan 2013, 15:22
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This is the last bit of info released by BAA and it's over 12 months old but it would seem they are as prepared as they can be.........

Operator BAA also has three times as many staff ready to clear snow compared with last year.

Thousands of passengers were left stranded at the airport as 4,000 flights were cancelled over five days for heavy snow before Christmas.

But BAA said it now has 185 snow clearance vehicles and has 468 staff per shift, compared to 117 last year.

The operator said it has invested 32.4m so far to tackle severe weather.

BAA had been criticised following last year's disruptions and a report accused the operator of a breakdown in communication and lack of "preparedness" for the bad weather.

After the publication of the Winter Resilience Enquiry Report, BAA promised to invest 50m to avoid facing disruptions on a similar scale.

Announcing its "winter resilience programme", the airports operator said it has introduced a new "reservist" role whereby up to 950 staff will be deployed to the terminals to help passengers during disruption.

'More to do'
BAA also has plans for a new airport control centre and improvements to passenger information.

But Normand Boivin, chief operating officer of Heathrow, said: "There is more still to do.

"There will be lots of attention on Heathrow the next time it snows heavily.

"We won't be perfect but we will be better and we will improve each time we practise our new response plans.

"There will still be times when, for safety reasons, airports have to close during severe weather, but the work detailed in today's report means this should happen less often at Heathrow and the airport responds better when it does."
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 05:30
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The most recent LHR forecast (TAF) is only looking as far ahead as Friday noon and at the moment is showing a lowish probabilty of snow, however as you can probably see the BBC forecast is from snow right through from Friday Noon onwards through all day Saturday.

As Dave has pointed out there's definitely lots of new kit at LHR but pretty much "untested in action", so to speak, so I'm not sure of the "confidence level".

Personally if I really had to connect with an important onwards flight I'd get to LHR as soon as practical (and to give some idea of my confidence level I'm travelling to LHR later today to "connect" for a Fri PM flight, FWIW).

Needless to say your call; good luck, and if you do go for an early flight option and then end up killing time watching the sun shine at LHR feel free to blame me .
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 08:43
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As the article that Dave posted indicates, they have made many changes recently. They have loads of new gear for snow clearance ops (the joke recently during our very wet summer was that all this wonderfully new shiny gear would rust away before it got to tackle any snow). The have lots of people trained up too. What they don't have is experience and space (real estate).

The usual scenario is the runways are restored to blacktop very quickly - but the terminal areas are left to later. The airport authority then tells the airlines that the stands are unuseable due to snow. LHR always tight on parking - so two useable runways are wasted, as everybody diverts due lack of a parking space!

Parking space is also at a premium as aircraft remain on stand awaiting deicing. Unfortuately, keen as they are, LHR has only a few experienced deicing teams. Many are volunteers drafted in for the winter. Consequently quantity in both fluid & time seems to trump quality; 30min+ to deice an A320 would be typical. Big Airways now has a couple of remote deicing points to relieve pressure on T5 and initial indications from last week seem to be positive.

For the next 24 hours - Tricky to forecast! Met man hedging his bets. Light snow from late morning, but the timing of the heavy snow is not certain. Friday evening maybe just as bad as Saturday.

I foresee HAL direct the airlines to cancel 30% of flights to ease the capacity pressure. LHR did this on a previous snow event and it did help. CDG & FRA do similar directives. Delays and cancellations will occur. If you do have the opportunity to travel Friday - that may be easier. I'm sure you will eventually get to your destination - just bring a good book! Good Luck!


Last edited by Thunderbug; 17th Jan 2013 at 09:27. Reason: Checked the wx...!
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 09:16
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LHR don't do snow...regardless of how much kit they have bought. They are a utter shambles...i speak from the frustration of many hours waiting for runways to open.

I'd also wager that BA will cancel most of it's short haul...this is their normal mode of operation.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 11:32
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You can have all the shiny new equipment in place and ready to work, but if the staff can`t get to work because of chaos on the roads and public transport, who is going to drive it.

It seems to only take a few flakes for the motorways to come to a standstill and the buses to not be allowed out of the depot.

Let`s hope it misses us.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 11:47
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Parking space is also at a premium as aircraft remain on stand awaiting deicing. Unfortuately, keen as they are, LHR has only a few experienced deicing teams. Many are volunteers drafted in for the winter.
Not sure about LHR, but where I work (that regional place up norf) the de-icing staff for the two companies who provide de-icing are either baggage handlers or cleaners, who are trained to de-ice in the winter months. There isn't any specific de-icing staff
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 13:22
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Met man has upped the probability of heavier snow arriving mid to late morning Friday

171111Z 1712/1818 11005KT 6000 SCT045 BECMG
1807/1810 4500 -SN BKN005 PROB40 TEMPO 1810/1818
1200 SN BKN002 -
LHR already has a NOTAM covering 0430 Thu - 2359 Sat stating that diversions will not be accepted (except emergency)


My outfit seems to have two groups involved in the deicing. One is the plucky volunteers making up the numbers with a few hour training. There is also a core of guys who do year round aircraft cleaning (believe it or not) as well as year round overnight frost removal /anti-ice and ad-hoc de-icing requirements. This additional exsposure makes them far more efficient

Last edited by Thunderbug; 17th Jan 2013 at 13:23.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 10:02
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Whatever the incompetence or inefficiency of Heathrow's snow clearance strategies, the reason for the annual snow debacle is simple. It is the white elephant that nobody in the media has mentioned.

If you are running an airport at 99% capacity, any delays caused by runway snow clearance or de-icing aircraft will lead to delays which will increase exponentially the longer the conditions persist.

The politicians and general public are quite happy to run Heathrow at 99% capacity but these delays are the inevitable consequence of the misguided policy to cancel any airport expansion in the south-east of the UK.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 12:22
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MH - what on earth are you playing at, bringing sanity, reason and honesty to the debate???
Heard Chris Evans this morning asking how the M25 can be open but LHR is "experiencing delays". Apart from the obvious that the M25 was also experiencing delays, I didnt know where to start, so just screamed.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 13:42
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Heard Chris Evans this morning asking how the M25 can be open but LHR is "experiencing delays". Apart from the obvious that the M25 was also experiencing delays, I didnt know where to start, so just screamed.
Aaahh, Chris Evans, Britains longest surviving brain transplant donor! he is a shock jock, so he's hardly likely to espout words of wisdom. You have to feel sorry for some people.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 17:13
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Run anything at 99% capacity and a small event can and will have a big impact. Add to that the lo-vis, which requires bigger gaps between movements and you have delays. If the government would give the go-ahead for a 3rd runway, the capacity would drop to around 75% (allowing for some slot growth) so the impact when an event happens will be vastly reduced.
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Old 23rd Jan 2013, 16:59
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Good luck! I'm praying it's going to be clear on the following weekend. I have really tight connection in Abu Dhabi so it could be a nightmare if a bit of snow falls
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