Finavia is to open a new aircraft de-icing site at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in mid-January. It will handle a large proportion of aircraft de-icing and will thus help to reduce water pollution in the vicinity of the airport. Ground handling companies operating at Helsinki-Vantaa are only allowed to carry out aircraft de-icing in areas specially designated for this purpose. About 90 per cent of these sites are connected to the wastewater system, while in the remaining areas the recovery of de-icing fluids is by means of vacuum trucks. The opening of the new de-icing site in mid-January will significantly reduce de-icing operations in areas not connected to the wastewater system.
According to Mikko Viinikainen, Finavia’s environmental manager, the opening of the new site is expected to reduce the negative impacts of de-icing at Helsinki-Vantaa. He adds that concentrating a large proportion of de-icing in a single area means that less space needs to be allocated for the purpose and that state-of-the-art equipment and wastewater systems can be used.
“This means improved recovery of runoff water and the entire process is easier to manage. It also means that less runoff water is produced than before,” says Viinikainen.
A large proportion of aircraft de-icing at Helsinki-Vantaa will take place at the new site. Finavia aims to have about half of all de-icing carried out in the new area.
The new de-icing area is intended for aircraft taking off towards the southwest from runway 3 and towards the south from runway 2. The site is located on both sides of the taxiways leading to the holding points for planes taking off in these directions. The site can handle between four and five planes simultaneously.
For safety reasons, snow and ice must be removed from aircraft fuselage and wings and the formation of new ice on control surfaces prevented. Ground handling companies must therefore treat aircraft with de-icing agents before takeoff.
De-icing is with hot water or a mixture of hot water and propylene glycol. The colder the air, the larger the amount of glycol required. Hot water is enough to remove ice and snow from aircraft surfaces at temperatures of around zero.
According to Tuija Hänninen, environmental specialist at Finavia, propylene glycol is not a toxic substance. After all, as she points out, it is also used as an additive in foods and cosmetic products.
Glycol decomposes quickly in the environment. The problem is, however, that when discharged into waterways it consumes oxygen and generates unpleasant odours. At the moment, Kylmäoja in Vantaa is the waterway most heavily affected by the airport’s de-icing runoff.
Aircraft de-icing is the responsibility of the airlines themselves, and the practical work is carried out by ground handling companies. Finavia provides the carriers with the necessary infrastructure and contributes to the reduction of discharges.
Source: Civil Aviation Administration of Finland
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