Hopkins Airport's New De-Icing System Now Fixed

Problems with Cleveland Hopkins International Airport's new de-icing system that caused long delays Tuesday should be corrected in time for today's anticipated winter storm.

A lake effect winter storm warning was issued for this morning. The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures in the 20s with gusty winds and nine to 20 inches of snow in some areas of Northeast Ohio by tonight.

Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said airport and airline officials, along with a representative from the company that operates the de-icing trucks, met Wednesday to discuss the problems and come up with solutions.

Szabo blamed communication breakdowns and unfamiliarity with the system for the up to three-hour delays some passengers experienced Tuesday morning during Cleveland's first snowstorm of the season. Continental Express also reported eight canceled flights because of the de-icing delays.

"We had some very serious growing pains," Szabo said.

Szabo said problems included:

Pilots who were uncertain where to go to get their planes de-iced.

De-icing operators who were still adjusting to the new system and worked more slowly.

Jammed radio frequencies that prevented quick communication between de-icing operators and airline pilots, which resulted in planes being delayed getting in and out of the de-icing area.

Szabo said airlines plan to brief their pilots on the de-icing procedure and more radio frequencies will be opened for better communication.

In addition, he said, the airport has given airlines approval to de-ice their planes at gates as a backup plan if delays in the central de-icing area become too long.

Tuesday was the first time Hopkins used its new de-icing system, which requires planes to taxi to a 40-acre concrete pad near the runway and get sprayed with chemicals that remove ice. The chemicals drain into a tank and then are taken to be recycled.

Previously, planes were de-iced at the gates, and the chemicals drained into sewer pipes, where they could contaminate nearby waterways.

An airport spokeswoman said the drains near the gates are designed to keep chemicals out of sewer pipes.

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