Page last updated at 00:54 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

How to clear snow from a runway

Vehicle clearing
The runway at Inverness Airport is cleared of snow

Heavy snow falls and sub-zero temperatures have disrupted flights to and from Inverness on occasions over the past two weeks.

The process of making the runways, taxiways and aprons safe involves de-icing fluid, plastic and wire brushes and magnets.

Robin MacRae, assistant airport manager, said staff try to stay ahead of the weather as far as possible.

He said a multitude of equipment was deployed when it did turn bad.

Mr MacRae said: "What we are aiming to do is achieve black tops - virtually a non-contaminated surface."

Braking actions

Runways, taxiways and aprons - the parts of airports set aside for loading and unloading aircraft - are cleared of snow by a vehicle equipped with a snow plough and brushes made of plastic and steel.

Mr MacRae said: "The reason we use steel brushes is that they can go right down to the black top quite quickly.

"When using steel brushes small parts come off on the runway so a vehicle with a magnet passes over afterwards to make the runway safe for the aircraft and passengers."

Measurements of braking actions are also relayed to air crews so they know what to expect.

Clearing the airport of ice sees a special aviation de-icing fluid used and a slippery runway can be treated in between 15-20 minutes.

The business of tackling winter conditions involves the fire service, operations and engineering departments.

Snow in Inverness
A snow and slush covered road near Inverness

Staying firmly on the ground, Highland Council has the task of treating the longest road network of any Scottish local authority.

According to its website this meant it was not possible for every road to be gritted at the same time.

Highland has a priority system - with a ranking of one to four - which targets roads based on their local importance.

Priority one is given to identified main routes and these are covered from 0600 until 2100 GMT Monday to Saturday. On Sundays and public holidays the cover is from 0700-2100 GMT.

Meanwhile, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it does not specifically monitor for the effects of road salt on water courses, but said any pollution issues would be detected from samples taken during routine testing.

Sepa said the priority was the public's health and safety.

It said local authorities treated roads using regulated amounts of salt and said no problems have been found related to its use.

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SEE ALSO
Council orders in extra road salt
12 Feb 09 |  Highlands and Islands

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