What does it take to keep runways clear of snow at John Glenn Airport?

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With all the winter weather recently, snow removal crews have been putting in long hours. That includes the teams at John Glenn International Airport who, like many of the road crews, have also been working 12 hours shifts. They work to keep the runway and other parts of the airfield as clear as possible.

“We try to get it down to bare pavement,” said Brad Ontrop, Airfield Maintenance Manager. “Planes are coming in 130, 140 miles per hour landing, and they’re built to fly in the air, not to maneuver on the ground so we try to get them the best surfaces possible.”

The airport’s snow removal teams are made up of 16 people on each shift. They operate a variety of heavy machinery. Some of their fleet is made of what is called multifunctional. They have a 24-foot plow on the front and a 22-foot brush meant to get anything the plow does not.

“This is our frontline defense against mother nature,” Ontrop said of the multifunctionals.

They only got them a few years ago and Ontrop says they are a game changer. The fleet is also made up of more traditional plow trucks, trucks with just powerful brushes on them, massive snow blowers that can move 2500-3000 tons of snow an hour, deicing trucks, and other pieces of heavy machinery.

“The guys know exactly what route we’re running depending on what the winds are for that day and they just go,” said Ontrop.

New snowblowers will likely be added to the fleet by next winter, according to Ontrop. The crews have the process down to a science. The runway is closed while they work on it but the other one is kept open.

“Once they get done and planes are coming in and nobody’s delayed or anything, at least on our end, they do take pride in what they do,” said Ontrop. “We have the equipment to go out there and handle almost anything Mother Nature can throw at us, but Mother Nature always bats last, and sometimes she bats hard.”

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