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Arlanda: The airport that never closes

In Stockholm, a fleet of snowplows keeps the runways clear.

“That makes us the fastest snow-clearing airport in the world,” said Stefan Sundkvist, who is field coordinator at Arlanda.

The airport’s three runways take six, eight and 10 minutes to clean.

”We have 250,000 square meters [almost three million square feet] to clean from snow and ice at the same time as airplanes take off and arrive. Nothing can be done by chance but all traffic must be directed and planned in detail,” Sundkvist said.

As the temperature dropped below freezing around Europe, many airports had trouble de-icing planes. Not Arlanda, which has a massive stock of de-icing liquid.

“We have no problems with that here," said Anders Bredfell, press director at Arlanda. "The problems are much bigger in London, Frankfurt and Paris. We have a major supply because we know that we have to defrost all the planes during the winter half year. Much snow is not a problem for us. We never close due to snow.”

The thought of all that de-icing fluid washing into the environment, as nearby snowplows chug out carbon emissions, would make an environmentalist blanch white as the snow. Arlanda shares the concern and is about to debut the world’s first snow sweeping vehicle fuelled by biogas.

“It is the first vehicle of its kind in the world. It can do anything the other snow sweepers can: plow, blow and sweep, but the big difference is that it driven by biogas," said Bertil Ekhaga, director of the airport’s machine fleet. "It is the first step toward zero [carbon dioxide] discharge for these heavy machines.”

And, with any luck, less emissions = less severe weather = fewer airport closures. It's that simple, right?

Alas, no. But apparently keeping a runway clear of snow can be.