In December 2011, over five inches (125mm) of snow settled at London Heathrow Airport in the space of an hour, so this year airport operators across the UK are determined to be prepared for any wintery conditions.
Construction equipment manufacturer JCB offers a wide range of machinery that can deal with the worst of the winter weather and convert to other uses during warmer seasons.
Telescopic handlers, backhoe loaders and wheeled loaders are all capable of loading snow, digging and general loading duties. BAA Edinburgh runs its own telehandler for operations throughout the year and hires in wheeled excavators and backhoes as the situation demands.
An increasing number of airports are also utilising the JCB Fastrac. This machine features a two-man cab, full suspension, powerful all-wheel drive, travel speeds of up to 50mph (80km/h) and truck standard ABS braking. Using multiple attachments, it is a master of many tasks from pushing a snow plough, running a sweeper, towing a snowblower and powering de-icing equipment to mowing the grass, verges and hedges in the summer.
London’s Luton Airport currently runs 11 Fastracs. Transport Manager Gary Clark reports the equipment is both useful and reliable: “Whether it’s clearing snow from the runway or taxiways, or covering large areas with de-icer, they really have kept things moving.”
London City Airport hires in a fleet of three Fastracs from specialist rental company ACE Plant, on an annual winter contract from October to March. The machines are equipped with 20ft (6m) ploughs and a Schmidt jet sweeper.