I’ve just come from the Transport Committee, where we heard from the airlines and the airfield operators about December’s disruption due to snow. It had me reflecting on my time involved with Jaguar operations in Arctic Norway, right.
We had some advantages over British airports and the commercial airlines:
- There were no passengers. If aircraft operations were abandoned, we just had to find something to occupy our time. There were not ever-growing thousands of people to care for.
- We kept the aircraft under cover, so there was very little deicing.
- It was cold enough (-20C to -30C) that complete deicing of airfield surfaces was impossible. The surface you can see right was typical: hard-packed snow with a covering of grit.
- The arctic airfield did not receive large commercial aircraft, just military jets, Hercules, helicopters and light commercials.
It was still difficult enough. You have to be careful not to touch with bare skin an aircraft which is so cold. It was quite hairy for the pilots, with great plumes of snow and grit on take off and parachutes required on landing. The people, vehicles and equipment had to be properly prepared for such cold weather. The weather was unpredictable, and plans often changed at short notice.
I have some sympathy therefore with the airlines and airfield operators. Snow conditions were exceptional and they faced difficulties which I did not. They should, however, get their communications right. It’s not acceptable that flights which took off were announced as cancelled, and passengers should really have received much better information.
I dont think anybody doubts that clearing snow in a climate not used to such falls is tricky. However BAA did take nearly 4-5 days to “sort it out”. I wouldnt be surprised if the root of the problem lay in the fact that BAA was bought in a heavily leaveraged buy out by Ferroival. Ferroival now carries this debt with huge interest payments and it would not be a huge leep to look at snow clearing percautions as an acceptable cut based on the low probability eg lets cut the cost of it. Colin matthews business track record is one of cost cutting he does not have a pedigree in growing businesses.