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Ice, ice? … Maybe
By A.B. Snedeker

Hartsfield-Jackson typically does not get much ice and snow during the winter, but the Airport’s Operations division takes the threat of freezing precipitation seriously. So, how does the world’s busiest airport prepare for abnormal winter operations?

Long before the winter season, Hartsfield-Jackson’s Operations and Maintenance divisions conduct a full-scale exercise to prepare for possible winter-related crises. When snow or ice is in the forecast, Operations implements the Airport’s Snow and Ice Control Plan. The first step is an initial conference call with all tenant airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), other Department of Aviation divisions and Airport stakeholders.

This is known as the Snow Watch, according to Geoffery Gaskin, airside operations supervisor.

“In order for all to be prepared, we conduct the conference call at least 48 hours before the arrival of freezing rain or snow,” Gaskin said. “During this conference call, the team discusses the approaching weather system and the anticipated precipitation and temperature.”

He added that the team also discusses preliminary airline plans for deicing operations and flight schedules. There are 11 central deicing pads at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Within 24 hours of approaching winter weather, a snow warning is issued and a face-to-face meeting is held for all stakeholders to discuss the forecast, deicing operations, personnel and equipment readiness, and airline plans for rescheduling aircraft. Airport Operations then activates the Snow Desk at Concourse E to coordinate deicing, snow or ice removal from runways and taxiways, and any passenger assistance that might be needed during the winter weather.

Working with the Airport’s information technology specialists and others, Operations recently improved the efficiency and reliability of the Snow Desk.

“We’ve added Wi-Fi, laptops and work stations. This will help us to monitor the aircraft queuing for the deice pads and to send out timely updates to all stakeholders,” Gaskin said.

Leading the Airport’s effort during winter weather operations is a designated “Snow Boss.” Acting as the overall incident commander, the Snow Boss is responsible for communicating with Department of Aviation leadership and divisions, coordinating resources and, above all, ensuring the safety of all passengers and aircraft. During a full deicing situation, the Snow Boss has control of all aircraft on each ramp and must give permission for aircraft to push back from gates.


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