Expert Webinar: Winter Deicing


On October 19, 2016, PASSUR hosted a webinar which focused on deicing and how various stakeholders plan, prepare and interact during severe weather events, in order to minimize or eliminate disruptions, including delays, cancellations, and diversions.

Renee Alter, PASSUR VP Airports, hosted the webinar (read Renee’s bio here). The PASSUR customer leads included Kevin Delaney, Deputy Director of Airfield Operations and CJ Cooney, Operations Manager, Integrated Deicing Services, LLC (IDS), both representing Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Mark Libby, PASSUR ATC Specialist, (read Mark’s bio here) then rounded out the webinar with a review of PASSUR’s Deicing Metering tools.

There are multiple players with roles and responsibilities sharing information, along with multiple locations involved in deicing operations. We were fortunate to have insights and real world best practice shared by two industry experts. The following describes typical practices during a snow event at the Detroit Airport.

Kevin Delaney, Deputy Director of Airfield Operations

  • Detroit’s Airport has six runways and operates four out of the six during severe weather events
  • Deicing is contracted to a third party service provider (IDS)
  • Planning for storms is done on a continuous basis, with monitoring of weather looked at 72 hours in advance
  • If a storm is determined to be severe, defined as greater than three inches of snow, communication with the Snow and Ice Committee is initiated 24 hours ahead of the expected event
  • A plan or protocol is developed based on the declared classification of the event
  • Communication occurs through conference calls with the Snow and Ice Committee

CJ Cooney, Operations Manager, Integrated Deicing Services, LLC (IDS)

  • IDS runs two of the four deice pads at the Detroit airport, providing service to 330 flights per day and utilizing up to 22 trucks and its own personnel
  • The airlines are constantly communicating with IDS with information about schedule changes and cancellations of particular importance
  • IDS is also concerned with taxi and runway closures, particularly plowing and snow removal around the deicing pads, where it relates to holdovers and whether planes need to be re-sprayed
  • IDS also closely monitors its own capacity, particularly truck and fluid capacity

Based on PASSUR’s wide-ranging experience at a variety of airports with a cross section of airlines and aviation stakeholders, we identify five common objectives of a deicing operation, the constraints most likely to impede these objectives, and the best practices to remedy these challenges.

Objective #1: Use all available departure capacity during deicing operation

Common Constraint: No way to know who will be ready to meet their departure time

Best Practice: Swapping slots based on flight readiness

Objective #2: Keep deicing-bound traffic apart from active arrival/departure flow

Common Constraint: At space-constrained airports, deice traffic conflicts with taxiing flights

Best Practice: Departure Sequencing: deconflicted push-backs, tows, and taxis OR open new taxi route

Objective #3: Optimal departure rate

Common Constraint: Not knowing how many planes can be deiced and departed in an hour

Best Practice: Predication of accurate departure rates and information sharing about runway closures

Objective #4: Shortest time from deice to takeoff (gate or pad deicing)

Common Constraint: Extended taxi queues post-deicing (leads to repeat/secondary deicing)

Best Practice: Metering to deice pad or end of runway ensures shortest possible queue

Objective #5: Minimize on-board tarmac delays

Common Constraint: Long queues into and out of deicing with passengers on board

Best Practice: Virtual Queue: keep delays at gate, not in taxi-queue … but maintain your place in line

A solution to many of the common constraints listed above is to institute a Centralized Airport or Airline Departure Metering Desk. The program provides a deicing slot allocation and sequencing to airport stakeholders in advance and eliminates the “first come, first served” policies currently in use at most airports during a deicing event (which can lead to long queues, secondary deicing, and delays or cancellations of priority flights).

Mark Libby then shared some of the tools and successes of the PASSUR solution, set beginning with the Aviation Winter Weather Dashboard available on the Aviation Weather Center website. This website provides a useful visual display of the weather at 29 core airports and surrounding smaller airports in 3-hour increments. It can be found at and provides a useful look forward at potential severe weather events.

PASSUR Deicing tools have been successfully deployed at the Toronto Airport and will soon be deployed at the Salt Lake City Airport in very different configurations. The Toronto Airport has a common deicing pad so airplanes wait at gates for an assigned deicing time. If a flight is cancelled, the time slot remains assigned to that particular airline. There are a number of different automated processes that allow the Toronto Airport Resource Management Unit (RMU) to quickly and efficiently allocate deicing slots across the entire airport for the full duration of the deicing program with a single click of a button. Airlines are then able to quickly swap one or more flights for another within their allotments, or request delays or new times for their flights – freeing up capacity for others. The result is maximum use of all available airport capacity, and a very short queue at the deicing pad. In three years, there has not been a single taxi-back, so the program is judged to be successful.

In contrast, the Salt Lake City Airport utilizes an “Ice Man” or central authority that coordinates deicing activities – a variation on the Toronto program. The PASSUR solutions there provide up to the minute information on airplane status, whether a plane is waiting at a gate, in a deicing queue, or ready to leave, including a visual icon of a holdover clock ticking. This system also allows particular flights to be given priority status, allowing them to be moved to the deicing pad ahead of other flights. The solution employs a chat room, allowing for communication and connectivity of all stakeholders and also archives data enabling review of activities.

If you have any questions about the webinar discussion, contact Renee Alter by email or 203.989.9196.