That could be the slogan of our Airfield Maintenance crew. Whether they are out runway painting, crack chasing (no, it doesn’t involve drugs), or snow blowing, they keep our airfield safe for airlines and passengers.
Our Airfield Maintenance crew constantly train to prevent injuries and to be adept at operating a variety of sophisticated equipment, which includes:
- Snow removal equipment
- Earthmoving equipment
- Pavement maintenance equipment
- Painting equipment
- Mowers, seeders, sprayers
- Landscape and irrigation maintenance systems
Airfield Maintenance is responsible for maintaining the runways, taxiways, and ramp areas. Here, they are filling in cracks on the ramp (hence, crack chasing). This involves using a machine to cut a shallow channel over a crack in the pavement and filling the crack with a sealer to prevent water and debris infiltration.
Multiple products are used for small scale concrete replacement repairs, including standard and rapid setting concrete, epoxies, and Techcrete. Techcrete is one of the newest technologies being used. It sets quickly and has a flexible component to provide expansion for the weather. This product is melted at very high temperatures making it extremely hot and dangerous work. The Techcrete is applied at 400o F. It is smoothed over the holes and topped with crushed rock to add traction. Any residue left on the ramp is swept and vacuumed up to prevent getting sucked into airplane engines.
Runway and taxiway markings must be kept sharp and visible. This is particularly important during the night and during poor weather conditions. When painting with the large paint truck, an operator sits in front to drive the truck and is responsible for keeping on a straight line. He uses a guide wheel in front of the vehicle and watches a camera screen to stay straight. Smaller paint carts are used to outline the markings in black to improve contrast and paint other locations. Glass beads are added to the paint to provide a reflectivity in the markings, which improves visibility in low-level light or poor weather conditions.
Mowing 1,500 acres of grass is an ongoing and grueling job, especially in the hot summer sun, but it’s an absolute necessity at an airport to keep the birds away. Bird strikes can cause considerable damage to airplanes. Tractors towing 15 ft. wide brush mowers are used to mow around lights. To mow around signs, 72” mid-mount mowers are used. During mowing of “safety areas” around taxiways, we use “mowing zones” – specific areas of the airfield to communicate our intentions with the Air Traffic Control Tower. Runways are closed for safety during mowing operations. When mowing inside safety areas or runways, a mowing observer is always used. The role of this position is to monitor air traffic and provide an extra level of safety to warn mowers of any aircraft near or passing in close proximity to their location. It takes two weeks to mow all required areas inside the security fence at ICT.
Winter operations can be challenging, especially with blowing snow, making it difficult to see the runway or the other equipment operating in close proximity. The goal of winter operations is to keep pavements in a “no worse than wet” condition. Airfield crews work around the clock to keep the airfield clear of snow and ice. When operators are not actively involved in clearing operations, they are likely resting in bunks or getting refueled at local or on-airport restaurants. Typically two runways are kept open with crews moving back and forth between them, providing clearing and treatment of pavements. Once the weather clears, they clean other lower priority pavement areas. The equipment they operate includes:
- Six rotary brooms. These brooms are 18-20 ft. wide and 4 ft. in diameter. Several are multi-function so they can take a plow, room, or snow blower. One is always kept designated as a son blower
- 5 Runway plows are 19 ft. and 22 ft. wide.
- Material spreaders range from 2 – 10 yard capacity and are used to spread fine-grade sand, sodium acetate, or a combinationof the two, depending on the location and conditions.
- 3,000 and 4,000-gallon liquid chemical spray trucks with booms that fold out to cover a 50-foot path. They spray a potassium acetate solution. No salt or corrosive materials may be used on movement areas to avoid damage to aircraft and minimize effects on concrete surfaces.
- Plow trucks that operate on the main runway (1L-19R) are equipped with poly-cutting edges to avoid damaging in-pavement lighting. The remaining plow trucks use carbide steel cutting edges to increase effectiveness and wear life.
All of this equipment must be kept maintained. Major maintenance is performed in off-season months. During the winter season (October 15 – April 15,) this equipment is inspected and its functions are tested every week to ensure its readiness. This equipment is very expensive and requires extensive training to operate and maintain.
The work of our Airfield Maintenance crew is not glamorous but is essential. Our most valuable asset is the dedicated personnel who work tirelessly in an occupation that is not usually thought about by the flying public. These essential workers put their hearts into their work, as if their family is onboard every plane. Thank you guys, for your dedication to this airport and to the flying public.