Snow removal at Salt Lake City International Airport requires tech, teamwork

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-30 19:46:38-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Clearing the roads can be big job when the snow starts to fall, but when your vehicle is an aircraft with more than 100 people on board, clearing the runway can be an even bigger job.

"We've been here since 4:00 a.m. plowing,” said Alvin Stuart, superintendent of airport operations at Salt Lake City International. “We have all our snow crews here today."

Twelve plows and brooms, four snow blowers, sanders and chemical trucks along with two teams carrying electricians and mechanics to fix lights that get damaged when moving all of that snow.

"Snow conditions here today have been pretty, kind of wet, so it hasn't been really icy too bad, so we're just mainly dealing with some snow and some slush removal,” said Harvey Murphy, a snowplow driver.

Monitors measure the air temperature and the temperature of the runways. Inside the trucks, a slew of technology is at the drivers’ fingertips.

"We have a broom that helps with ice removal and snow removal, plus you have your snow blade that does the same thing, and so the computer makes sure they all operate together,” Murphy said.

One truck drags an airplane tire over the runway to assess conditions.

"It simulates an airplane braking on the runway,” Stuart said. “They do it full-length, and then it reports that in a number."

That number is a measure of how much friction the runway is providing, or in other words, how easy it will be for an airplane to stop.

It's one of many measurements taken throughout the day to ensure the safety of passengers.

"During a storm like this, we might issue up to 500 of those condition reports,” Stuart said.