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Photo: Copenhagen Airport

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Airport Tour: Behind the scenes tour of Copenhagen Airport

What’s the largest aircraft that CPH Airport can handle? What happens when things go awry? And where does the queen’s dog go for a tinkle, before a flight? You’ll learn plenty of fun facts on a Copenhagen Airport Tour and be admitted to areas normally out of bounds to passengers.

Some people know CPH like the back of their hand. People who know exactly how many steps it takes from Security to Finger B, where you’ll find the shortest line for coffee, and which is the last WC before the gate. However, for even the most experienced travelers, the mechanical room at Scandinavia’s largest airport has been unknown territory – until the advent of Airport Tours. You’ll hear fun anecdotes and gain insights into why CPH has repeatedly been crowned Europe’s most efficient airport.

Photo: Ernst Tobisch/Københavns Lufthavn

A brief introduction presents its modest early days. When Copenhagen Kastrup Airport was officially opened in 1925, it was the world’s first civil airport with around 400 passengers a year - the terminal was a wooden building and the only flights were by seaplane to Malmö.

Over time, passenger numbers and the route network have grown. Asphalt, security procedures, new terminals, new aircraft and new control towers have been added. Today, Copenhagen Airport has over 30 million passengers a year, 23,000 employees and an area covering 12 million sq. m. And it’s continuously expanding– the aim is to reach 40 million passengers a year by 2025 or 100,000 times as many as when it first opened 100 years before.

CPH from above 2017. Photo: Københavns Lufthavn

The world’s largest passenger aircraft and the royal waiting room

The tour itself covers 32km of the airport area. We pass the royal waiting room in Finger A, which doesn’t look anything special from the outside, but inside there’s a two room apartment styled by queen Margrethe herself. This is where her majesty, the speaker of the Danish Parliament, prime minister and other dignitaries wait until their flight is ready to board. Outside, there’s a small patch of grass with an engraved copper plate stating that this is the royal canine WC.

The guide explains that the general public can also sit in the queen’s seat. “If you want to use the royal room, you can book a 4-hour stay for Dkr5,000 for you and up to four friends.”

Airport Tour guides are full with facts. Photo: Lise Hannibal

We drive past Finger B, a  very familiar sight to SAS passengers. “Finger B is exclusively reserved for SAS and Star Alliance partners. They are the airport’s biggest customers with a marketshare of 36%,” our guide says.

Outside Finger C, we can see the world’s largest airliner, the double-decker super jumbo Airbus 380, that weighs 600 tons. The aircraft is so big, the runway had to be expanded for it to be able to land, the foundations under the asphalt had to be reinforced and a special gate built in Finger C to be able to handle it. It is flown by Emirates with daily departures from Copenhagen to Dubai.

Fire engines and snow plows

The airport boasts an impressive fleet of 1,200 vehicles that include giant grass mowers, snow plows and fire engines.

Fireman gear ready. Photo: Lise Hannibal

In the cold hall, we see the airport’ s massive snow clearing equipment. These include snowplows and snow blowers, and for eight months of the years, 250 employees are on standby to clear snow, ice and hail to prevent disruption to daily operations.

We’re also allowed to enter the airport fire station. In addition to being a working fire station, it also provides first aid services, so we are advised to stand well back and away from the vehicles if the alarm sounds. Boots and protective clothing stand ready for the fire fighters to hop down into and onto the vehicles ready to rush to an incident within 30 seconds. In the distance we can see decommissioned fighter jets and semi shells of civil aircraft that are used for fire practice.

A snowplow is being inspected. Photo: Lise Hannibal

Along the way, we learn all sorts of fascinating details about operations. Insect-repellent grass, the song of birds of prey played over loudspeakers and marksmen with hunting licenses are used all year round to keep bird numbers down. The power supply – the airport uses as much electricity each day as a smaller provincial town – and the emergency generators, that can keep everything from landing lights and departure boards to hand dryers working, in the event of a power outage. About the 3.5 million liters of fuel and 50,000 meals a day and the thermal radar that detects everything with a temperature above 32 degrees, so neither humans nor animals bigger than a hare can wander into unauthorized areas in the airport. Before the radar became part of the system, a horse once entered, not to mention numerous smaller animals.

All in all, the tour is a real eye opener into all the teamwork that is involved behind the scenes between airport, crews, pilots and airlines, to ensure we can get from A to B. A must for all aviation enthusiasts.

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