In order to ensure safe operations around the clock even in wintry weather conditions, winter service is available at Munich Airport from the beginning of November to mid-April.
When there is ice and snow, the winter service crew is deployed at the airport. It includes 178 vehicles, 148 of which are used to clear flight operations areas and 30 for roads, paths and parking areas in public areas. 65 of the vehicles are tractors from the airport region. A total of around 600 women and men work in winter service, around 520 of whom come from agriculture and haulage companies in the region. Over 200 emergency services per shift ensure that areas within the airport fence are free of snow and ice.
In order to enable airport operations to run as smoothly and safely as possible, large areas have to be cleared when snow falls: the two runways, aprons and taxiways alone cover around 5,6 million square meters, the equivalent of more than 780 football fields. Clearing a runway at Munich Airport takes around 30 minutes.
In addition to the tractors with snow plows, numerous special vehicles are also used, including 22 blower sweepers, six loading cutters and a snow groomer. The cleared snow masses are transported to six specially set up snow dumps. A total of up to 2,2 million cubic meters of snow accumulates here each season. An underground collecting basin ensures that the resulting meltwater does not reach the environment.
The winter service is alerted by Munich Airport's traffic management, which monitors the condition of the operating areas around the clock. In addition to the current forecasts from the German Weather Service, the traffic management uses a black ice early warning system, which obtains constantly updated data from a total of 18 measuring points distributed throughout the airport, as an aid. In addition, the braking values on the runways are continuously checked with the help of special vehicles.
Mechanical cleaning of traffic areas is a priority due to environmental protection. The use of surface de-icing agents is only necessary if there is a risk of icing on the operating areas. Quartz sand is spread on some of the areas instead of the de-icing fluid. Channels running on both sides of the runways collect the thawing liquid and direct it to the meltwater retention basin. From here, the meltwater is forwarded in a controlled manner to the sewage treatment plant in Eitting.
Not only the traffic areas of the airport have to be kept in a safe condition during the cold season: snow and ice also have to be cleared from the aircraft before take-off. This is done by the so-called "polar bears" of the Society for Deicing and Aircraft Towing at Munich Airport (EFM), a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Munich Airport. "Polar bears" are special vehicles that spray de-icing agent onto the aircraft immediately before take-off. EFM de-icing up to 15.000 aircraft - from Learjet to Airbus A380 - per year. The used de-icing agent is collected and largely recycled.