28 March 2011 | Lindsay Clark
A supply shortage of de-icer caused a runway at Heathrow Airport
to be closed longer than necessary during the winter freeze, according to the Reportof the Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry.
Commissioned by airport owner BAA, the report
said the forecast level of de-icer stocks influenced the decision to maintain
single-runway operations at the UK’s largest airport between Saturday 18
December until the following Tuesday. The situation changed when the weather
forecast improved and additional supplies were sourced.
At the time, the supply of de-icer was hit by distribution
problems, so BAA sought an alternative source. However, concerns over another bout
of snowfall hitting supply affected the decision to keep the second runway
“Had there been greater certainty around the availability
and supply of sufficient stocks of [de-icing] media, a dual-runway operation
could have been restored sooner,” the report said.
The severe winter weather in the UK during December caused
disruption to Heathrow’s operations on a number of fronts. The report revealed
that more than 4,000 flights were cancelled, causing significant impact to
airline schedules globally, and Heathrow Airport’s reputation was damaged.
The review panel added that stocks of other emergency
supplies, such as blankets, food and water, available for stranded passengers
were insufficient to cope with the high number in the terminals. It recommended that BAA dynamically
maintained its stock of de-icer and other emergency supplies at levels that are
driven by the weather forecast, expected rate of use, reliability of supply and
BAA said it would implement all the reports’ recommendations
with a £50 million Heathrow resilience investment plan, which it will put to
airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority in April.
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews set up the independent
Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry to assess its performance during the period
of disruption and to recommend changes.