Snowbound Escape

The above panel is from the London broadsheet The Times' 'peek behind the scenes'; "This is how Heathrow will ensure your flight takes off this winter".

The drift of context being that London's pretty much outmoded two-runway laggard - as per country in general - is oft derided for collapsing under the weight of but a flutter of snow. Comparing highly unfavourably with stark Northern European efficiency in the 'snow, what snow?' mould.

Their journalist spends a day among those tasked with making sure that no repeat of recent frozen shutdowns would cause further damage to reputation, revenue or travellers again.

There's a fascinating story in here.

Noting the blizzard of havoc. Finding prevention measures. Planning and putting in place response to cope in future.

Panels like that above are a cracking device. Even, I'd venture, for those not normally comfortable with figures. As a summary box in a doc, such as Prop. A draft meeting aid for discussion with prospect. Or slide allowing a pitch.

The key consideration I'd suggest, is to let your numbers map to your story.

In the case of the airport here seeking to improve its systems, the extractor-compiler-editor misses out on this.

One stat jumped out on me; 285ft Height of the control tower. Who cares? In this instance, it's meaningless.

Then you suspect that an annual 5% Chance of a six-inch snow dump might also be a bit without bite. Highlighted over other weather recording intel 'that going back to 1948 shows that there is a 20 per cent chance of a three-and-a-half-inch snowfall in any given winter'.

In whatever way you choose to start your story, the platform is typically where you were at. The quest, problem, situation.

The snowfall pair here hint at the risk. Yet they may be a touch remote.

The copy elsewhere made lengthy reference to December 2010 cases of stranded passengers overnight (9,500), cancelled flights (4,000), and days before normal operation resumed (7).

Adding that first figure to your panel-box would bring the personal angle. The shocking volume of fliers in limbo, confined to a night in a crammed departure lounge, Yuletide plans in ruins. That's emotion grabbing.

If a hero is what you're looking for, then you'd do well to choose an individual (£550,000 Cost of an Overaasen RS400 snowplough) rather than the total fleet or investment (205 vehicles, part of £50m spend).

Introducing the element of jeopardy, you can draw on the looming bottleneck; 6 minutes Time before de-icer needs reapplying to planes in the coldest conditions. There's plenty to plough from the impacts around this, including knock-on 'HOT' implications of Holdover Time.

The sheer volume needing a quick shift piles on the peril; 4,000 Lorryloads of snow if four inches falls. We also learn that's 60,000 tons.

It's a shame there's no reporting of just how many ground staff were mistakenly sent home, compounding the disruption when previously snowed under. Which brings us to our first runway of remedy.

Now made ready, what the Dutch call Polar Bears. A specially trained roster of 360 snow and ice clearers, with a further on-call contractor pool of 1,200.

Numbers for de-icer stock (2.7m litres), aircraft throughput (peak period landings every 45 seconds) and airbridge stands (192) also appear.

The story might well hopefully end one day with glowing reports of keeping the wheels moving during a generational snowstorm. Testimonial territory from which careers take off.

Yet already the mitigation in place concludes with aim for a delightfully showy benchmark;

"Heathrow knows that it can’t match ['best in class'] Oslo, but seems ready to have a stab.
In March 2015 about 18 inches of snow fell in a single day and closed [Oslo Gardermoen] airport — for 90 minutes."

Does your story's numbers have such desired melting effect?

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