Keep­ing run­ways clear

When snow ar­rives, Gan­der Air­port’s main­te­nance crew keeps planes mov­ing safely

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY CLARENCE NGOH clarence.ngoh@gan­der­bea­

When snow ar­rives, Gan­der Air­port’s main­te­nance crew keeps planes mov­ing safely

The main­te­nance crew at Gan­der In­ter­na­tional Air­port springs into ac­tion as fresh snow falls on the tar­mac. The crew plays a crit­i­cal role to en­sure run­ways and sur­round­ing ar­eas are clear of snow for air­planes to safely land and take off. The con­trol tower in­structs three “sweeper” machines to clear run­way 13/31. Wind di­rec­tion is a de­ter­min­ing fac­tor for which run­way will re­main ac­tive, ac­cord­ing to main­te­nance crew mem­ber Scott Pen­ney. “Planes like to land against the wind,” said Pen­ney. On days with heavy snow­fall, the crew works hard to keep one run­way open. “We like to keep it at the 60foot cen­tre­line or at 120 if the weather per­mits,” said Penny, re­fer­ring to the width of the run­way to be kept clear of snow. “Sixty or 120 is what most air­crafts would land on.” The clean­ing op­er­a­tion is tightly con­trolled. The where­abouts of each clean­ing ma­chine is con­tin­u­ously re­layed to three lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: main­te­nance crew, fire hall/of­fices in the air­port and the con­trol tower. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is vi­tal to snow-clear­ing op­er­a­tions. The main­te­nance crew asks the con­trol tower for permission to en­ter and exit clean­ing ar­eas such as taxi­ways and run­ways. The tower then in­forms the crew of in-bound and out-bound air­planes, and how much time they have to clear the ar­eas, in ad­di­tion to other spe­cial re­quire­ments. The abil­ity to multi-task and main­tain con­stant aware­ness is crit­i­cal – there are plenty of things to keep track on the job, said Pen­ney. “The job comes with a lot of train­ing, and you are al­ways lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio, watch­ing your sur­round­ings for lights and signs, and (not­ing) how much time you have on the run­way.” As the weather changes from snow­fall to ice pel­lets, the field fore­man is on the look­out for ice patches and other fac­tors that may com­pro­mise the safety of air­planes land­ing or tak­ing off. Field fore­man Joey Hunt gen­er­ates a re­port that is passed on to the tower and re­layed to pi­lots. A spe­cial re­quire­ment called the Cana­dian Run­way Fric­tion In­dex (CRFI) may be re­quested by a pi­lot in the event of freez­ing rain or ice. The field fore­man gen­er­ates the CRFI re­port on a de­vice in his ve­hi­cle. Ac­cord­ing to Pen­ney, the ve­hi­cle does 11 hard brakes each way on the run­way to ob­tain a mea­sure­ment. “It is re­ally hard on the truck when a CRFI is per­formed, and a lot of air­craft will call for a CRFI when there is freez­ing rain or ice when land­ing,” said Hunt. A lot of work takes place in the back­ground to keep air­planes com­ing and go­ing at the air­port. “The more planes, the bet­ter for us,” Pen­ney said. “It is an achieve­ment for us when the planes get in.” Since start­ing work in main­te­nance three years ago, Pen­ney said the air­port has not closed even in a se­vere snow­storm, an achieve­ment he pro­claims proudly.


Sweeper trucks are used at the Gan­der Air­port to clear snow from the run­ways and taxi­ways. A brush is lo­cated at the rear of the ma­chine to clear de­bris, in ad­di­tion to a blower that pushes snow away.

Adam Roberts in front of his snow blower, used to clear snow away from run­way ar­eas at the air­port. The sweeper machines push aside snow for the snow blower to push fur­ther away to keep run­ways and taxi­ways clear.

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