Plowing an airport is no small task

CREATED Feb 5, 2014

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  • Image by General Mitchell International Airport

MILWAUKEE - Crews at Mitchell International have been busy this winter keeping the runways, taxiways, and ramps clear of snow and safe for aircraft. 

Plowing an airport is a lot different than clearing roads and highways.  Crews are not allowed to use rock salt. 

"Salt can be very corrosive to metal, especially aircraft aluminum.  So salt is strictly prohibited from being used at the airport, so we use special chemicals that help melt some of the snow," explained Terry Blue, deputy airport director for operations and maintenance for Milwaukee County.

The rules for closing the runways are very strict, which means crews are out more often.

"We have to close the runways any time there is one half of an inch of wet snow or slush or two inches of dry snow."

The equipment is bigger and more expensive than highway equipment.  The runway fleet is made up of twelve combo units that are 72 feet long.

"They have a 24-foot snow blade on the front with an 18-foot broom attached to them and an air blower on the rear end," said Blue.

In addition, there are four pieces of equipment that work like giant snow blowers.  It all makes for an incredibly efficient fleet.  

"They can plow our 10,000-foot long by 200-foot wide runway from edge to edge, end to end, in 18 minutes flat."

A separate crew clears snow and ice from taxiways and ramps.