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Dublin: -1 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018

Working 12 hour days and moving 400,000 tonnes of snow - how Dublin Airport crews overcame the Beast

100 on-site staff and 200 contractors worked to clear the nearly 1,000 acre site.

DSCN3688 Source: DAA

AS AIRLINES WORKED to put stranded passengers on flights yesterday, they did so with planes taking off near a massive snow pile.

That pile was the culmination of a week’s work by crews at Dublin Airport, who worked around the clock to ensure that the airport remained open throughout the storm that battered Ireland last week.

Ice is a major problem for airports as it is essential that aircraft have enough braking action to allow them to stop safely on a runway when moving at speed.

A build up of snow or ice on a runway can dramatically reduce the available friction required for braking, making it unsafe for aircraft.

While airlines cancelled flights due to the location on aircraft or an inability of staff to get to work, the airport says at no point was it ever not open.

DSCN3694 Some of the snow being moved. Source: DAA

For Ian Devine, the Head of Asset Care and Delivery with Dublin Airport, that meant lessons had been learned nearly a decade ago.

“The snow and ice event we had in 2010-2011 led to a significant investment in equipment, staff and contractor resources, including a €5 million spend on equipment.

“Now, for 20 weeks across winter we have an action plan that means contractors are ready to respond within an hour, which means we were well placed to clear the airfield. The plan really kicked in as it was designed to.”

That plan led to 100 on-site staff and 200 contractors working to clear the nearly 1,000 acre site (400 landside and 600 airfield). That meant serious planning and long days for staff.

We had been monitoring it all weekend, but when we got the forecast on Monday we put teams on 12 hour 7am-7pm shift cycles. Teams were split in two and when one crew stopped at 7pm, another took over. It meant we had to book a lot of accommodation in local hotels and had to look at areas within the airport to set up makeshift accommodation. We had people sleeping in the airport to make sure we weren’t caught short.

DSCN3645 Source: DAA

Aside from the tangible achievements, Devine says he is pleased with the attitudes of staff.

“The morale and the community spirit in airport really showed itself. The commitment to go above and beyond was exceptional. I’ve been here 15 years and have never seen anything like it.

“I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what, but it was amazing. I was here four days straight and nobody wilted. We kept everything open as much as possible and at no point were pavements contaminated.”

That work means that there are now massive snow piles in parts of the airport. After ploughing, the snow is transported via a convoy of trucks to specific designated areas on remote parts of the airfield where the drainage is carefully managed as part of the overall pollution control system.

DSCN3743 Source: DAA

That is the next challenge for Devine’s team.

“Well in excess of 400,000 tonnes of snow. It’s not thawing that fast so we will have to keep an eye on localised flooding and bring in pumps where necessary.”

However, that doesn’t mean they are taking any time off, with the summer flight season right around the corner, when 41 airlines will move up to 740 times a day, carrying around 75,000 passengers daily.

“There’s no time to think about it, really. We’ve had meetings all morning – it’s now time to deal with the aftermath and deal with the summer schedule.”

Read: The tiny hare rescued in Dublin Airport during the snow is being well looked after

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