On a warm spring day at the Aeromag 2000 central deicing facility located across the airfield of Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, the scene was calm — deicing units neatly nestled in the warehouse and air traffic an audible, yet distant reality.
It was a scene that stood in stark contrast of a rigorous winter season that demanded the deicing of more than 9,000 aircraft — 3,000 over an average of about 6,000 aircraft — with about a million gallons of type I ethylene glycol and 225,000 gallons of type IV — about double the average amount of fluid used in a typical season.
Even in unforgiving conditions, it has remained business as usual for the facility. “We’re geared to provide this service,” says Pierre Lesperance, finance director of Aeromag 2000. “We have a number of deicing units to cope with the flow of aircraft. So even if we have a lot of snow it may take a little longer to deice because of contamination, but we’ll manage accordingly with the weather conditions and deploy the required number of deicing units to maintain the flow of aircraft on the pad and the take-off capacity.”
Riding the Storm
The company — which performs deicing operations at several North American locations, including Ottawa and Cleveland — participated in the design of the central deicing facility and has been in the business of tackling wintry conditions since it opened in December of 1997, having to prove its mettle a month later when it was hit with a severe ice storm.
The facility encompasses a warehouse with administration offices and a communications tower as well as a deicing pad of five bays — spanning the length of nine football fields — with four taxiways feeding in and out from the airfield. The pad can accommodate five class 3 aircraft for deicing at one time.
Pride and Preparation
In the off season, the administration offices are bustling with activity to prepare for what the next winter might bring. Training has been a fundamental aspect of its operations, according to Aeromag President Mario Lepine, who says the company invests in more than 60 hours of training for its staff — which consists of about 75 employees in the winter and 15 in the summer.
A second important facet for the facility has been preventative maintenance of its deicing units, investing 80 man hours per unit each summer. “Based on our maintenance program, which is very strict and stringent, the deicing unit manufacturer confirmed that the useful life could easily be more than 20 years without a major overhaul,” Lesperance says.
Among its current fleet of 20 deicing units, there has remained one 1997 model in operation. In fact, upon inspection one would be hard-pressed to spot the older model — which for the company exemplifies a culture of care that has pervaded its operations. “The technicians are proud and when they are up in the deicing unit, it’s clean, it’s neat and when they bring it back once their shift is over, they make sure that it’s clean, nice and neat so that the next deicing technician that will be using it will be proud, so it’s a company philosophy,” Lesperance says.
A philosophy of preparation and pride has proven useful under severe weather, according to Lepine. “With the right tools, the right people — winter arrives and more than 9,000 aircraft get deiced,” he says.
The Right Technology
In an effort to provide maximum efficiency during deicing operations, Aeromag has equipped a data transmission system on each vehicle — a system it has been perfecting for the last six years.
It allows for real-time measurement of fluid levels and a seamless segue between deicing operations in different bays. The system has streamlined much of the process, allowing for an aircraft to be passed in about 10 minutes, according to Lepine.
“This system basically reduces the communication time considerably between the deicing technicians and the deicing coordinators so all the key deicing information is transferred from the deicing units to the main computer and vice versa using electronic data transmission,” he says.