Airplane de-icing options limited below -29 C: WestJet, Calgary airport

Airplane de-icing options limited below -29 C: WestJet, Calgary airport

For the fourth day in a row, delays and cancellations were wreaking havoc at several Canadian airports.

Airlines and airports alike pointed to frigid temperatures in Alberta and snow in B.C. as the main culprit, as conditions created challenges for ground crews, delayed operations and suspended flights.

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WestJet also attributed plane de-icing fluid limitations as a factor.

In an email to Global News Wednesday morning, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell put the “de-icing fluid limitations at -29C.”

“Deicing during extreme cold temperatures and simultaneous active precipitation poses significant challenges,” WestJet spokesperson Denise Kenny explained in a later update Wednesday. “There are two types of deicing fluid used on aircraft: Type 1 and Type 4.

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“Type 1 fluid is effective in removing snow and ice from the exterior of an aircraft and can be used at temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius. Type 4 is an anti-ice fluid that prohibits precipitation from adhering to the treated surface, however its lowest usable temperature is -29 degrees Celsius.

“Certain regions in Western Canada are experiencing active precipitation amidst extreme cold temperatures, which add additional layers of complexity to departure de-icing requirements for aircraft and slows down the overall process,” Kenny said.

The entire province of Alberta was under an extreme cold warning Wednesday, with wind chill values of -40 or colder expected for most of the week. Much of B.C. was also under extreme cold warnings on Wednesday, as snow, extreme cold and arctic winds grip Western Canada.

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“At temperatures including and below -29 degrees Celsius, anti-icing fluid is no longer effective,” said Stephanie Harris, a spokesperson for Calgary International Airport.

“This slightly delayed some flights last night and today (Wednesday) which caused no major impact or concern to the operation.”

Anti-icing fluid became effective by 10:24 a.m. Wednesday, she said.

Click to play video: 'Union concerned over changes to de-icing at YYC airport'

Union concerned over changes to de-icing at YYC airport

Even at 4 p.m., Calgary was -28 C without wind chill.

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“Through the Calgary Glycol and Fuel consortium, the airlines secure de-icing services and decide to de-ice based on weather conditions at YYC,” Harris added.

“AeroMag is the primary provider selected for [centralized] de-icing services.”

Edmonton International Airport also uses AeroMag.

The temperature in Edmonton Wednesday morning was -34 C without wind chill factored in.

“In terms of de-icing fluid for aircraft at Edmonton International Airport, the product application threshold is -29C for Type 4 with snow,” airport spokesperson Megan Hall said.

“When temperatures dip below the -29C range, utilization of Type 1 (which is a two-step process with a hold-over application time) is employed.”

Wind chill does not factor into the temperature calculations, she said.

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Hall said safety and security remains the airport’s priority.

“As a winter airport, we plan and practice for different situations to ensure safety and efficiency for our passengers and staff.”

A statement from Air Canada suggests nearly 600 of its flights haven’t been completed over the last five days.

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About 935 Air Canada flights depart every day worldwide, it said, with a flight completion rate “well above” 98 per cent since the beginning of December.

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But over the past five days, the rate dropped to 87.25 per cent, the statement said, citing storms in Ontario and B.C.

Air Canada said the Vancouver airport continued to be “in a recovery situation” Wednesday. The airline “implemented an extended goodwill policy so that people due to travel to and from Vancouver Dec. 20 to 25 can rebook at no charge up to Dec. 31. or receive a voucher for future travel.

Air Canada said travellers should rebook online if their flight is cancelled, while WestJet is offering full refunds to passengers choosing to cancel proactively.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver International Airport resumes travel, limits international arrivals following snowstorm'

Vancouver International Airport resumes travel, limits international arrivals following snowstorm

A statement from WestJet shows 130 flights have so far been cancelled Wednesday, out of 563 flights originally scheduled.

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It said 240 flights were grounded Tuesday due to disruptions in Vancouver along with frigid temperatures in Calgary and Edmonton, while 250 flights were cancelled Sunday and Monday.

A statement from Vancouver’s airport says it halted all international arrivals for about 48 hours to deal with “congestion” caused by 27 cm of snow Tuesday.

The restriction, affecting 17 airlines and approximately 30 flights, is to lift at 5 a.m. Friday.

Read more:

Vancouver International Airport’s ground stop lifted but arriving international flights limited

Vancouver airport officials issued another statement later Tuesday, saying improved weather and work by crews clearing runways has allowed an increase in takeoffs and landings. But delays and cancellations are expected to continue, it said.

The statement from Vancouver International Airport acknowledges that halting international arrivals until two days before Christmas will come as a blow.

“We fully recognize the impact this will have on individuals and families over the holiday season. However, the congestion caused by Tuesday’s storm events makes this action necessary,” it said.

A significant number of planes remain at the airport, causing congestion at its airfield, airport officials said in their subsequent statement.

Click to play video: 'Frustration among air travellers as Toronto Pearson Airport braces for storm and busy travel days ahead'

Frustration among air travellers as Toronto Pearson Airport braces for storm and busy travel days ahead

Another major winter storm is expected to hit the Toronto area late this week into the holiday weekend. Toronto Pearson International Airport is now advising of an approaching storm that could derail travel further.

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At Pearson, officials are advising travellers to check with their airline because airport operations could be affected by a storm forecast to arrive Thursday and potentially cause a flash freeze or blizzard conditions the next day.

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WestJet posted information for guests who’ve had flights cancelled.

The airline also said it is “staffed appropriately for the holiday travel season and our teams at the airport are working as quickly as possible to support all impacted guests.

“The ongoing extreme cold weather warnings affecting Alberta and prolonged forecasted snow and weather events for regions across B.C…. are having a severe impact not only on our operations, but our staff and service partners who are battling frigid temperatures and extreme weather,” Bell said.

“In Vancouver today and across last night alone, the weather prevented many of our staff and service partners from being able to get to work safely. Additionally, severe weather impacts continue to prove challenging as we work to stabilize our operations and facilitate mandatory crew rest requirements for safety.”

Air Canada also said it spent significant time preparing for winter, including hiring.

“Air Canada’s planned schedule this quarter is 85 per cent of the same time in 2019, pre-pandemic. We currently have about 35,600 employees, approximately 1,000 more than we had then,” an airline spokesperson said Wednesday.

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— with files from The Canadian Press

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