The National Academies

ACRP 10-15 [Final]

A Guidebook for Airport Winter Operations

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: Gresham Smith and Partners
Principal Investigator: Robert McGormley
Effective Date: 6/25/2012
Completion Date: 8/29/2014

Winter weather has the potential to disrupt operations at airports of all sizes; and recent events at several airports have again illustrated the importance of preparing for, operating during, and recovering from winter events. Lack of preparation by an airport for these events can result in potential safety issues. In addition, it is well known that dealing with winter operations can represent a significant cost to airports. For example, at a larger airport facility, the cost of delaying flight operations to permit snow clearing has been estimated in some cases to exceed $300,000 per hour—a factor which can support a decision to increase investment in snow removal so as to reduce the time required to clear a runway. To prepare for these events, airports have to develop a variety of procedures based on individual or unique requirements. Examining the range of existing procedures and evaluating effectiveness would help airports in general respond to a continuing winter operations requirement.

Research is needed to develop a guidebook that would provide a useful tool in preparing an effective winter operations plan. Such a guidebook would help to ensure that, based on best practices, optimal investments are being made at airports of varying sizes.


The objective of this research was to prepare a guidebook to help airports prepare for, operate during, and recover from disruptive winter events as well as manage airport user expectations. The guidebook identifies and evaluate best practices in airport airside and landside winter operations, as well as provides guidance on how to manage overall passenger experience within a framework of safety and efficiency. The guidebook also provides guidance to airport operators on determining the optimal level of investment necessary to implement an effective program given expected winter conditions and the nature of the aviation activity at that particular airport. The audience for this guidebook includes managers, operators, and users of small to large airport facilities.

At a minimum, the guidebook addresses the following program elements as components of an effective winter operations plan adaptable to a variety of airports:
  1. Operational consideration—friction, weather, and other factors
  2. Strategies and tactics—equipment, chemicals, drift control, and other related factors
  3. Operational guidelines—personnel, timing, human factors, and other related issues
  4. Economic and finance considerations—budget analysis, benefit-cost analysis, risk analysis
  5. Environmental issues—permitting and other applicable regulations

The research is published as Report 123. More information on the background of the research can be found in the Contractor's Final Report

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