The Wichita Eisenhower Snow Crew brought out their big toys today for the annual snow rodeo. The rodeo is an opportunity to practice snow and ice removal before a real event occurs. The crew operates specialized equipment and train throughout the year to prepare for the winter season. The equipment includes:
- 5 brooms made by Oshkosh/chassis and MB/broom head. Depending on the specific model, these can be configured differently to operate a broom, plow, or snow blower but are primarily used as brooms. The brooms were bought in 1997, 2004, 2010, and two in 2011.
- 1 Oshkosh truck (2001) configured as a snow blower
- 2 Oshkosh plows (2004) have poly blades and sanders for use on the main runway.
- 3 older Oshkosh plows are configured with steel blades for use in clearing heavy snow and ice but cannot be used on the main runway due to in-pavement lights.
- 2 deicing trucks – a 3000-gallon truck (1999) and a 4000-gallon truck (2009) are used to spread liquid anti-icing chemicals.
- A standard highway spec truck is used to apply dry/solid deicer through a sander, as necessary.
For a light snow event, snow brooms are the primary tool used. They can sweep the contaminants off the pavement leaving a “no worse than wet condition” and provide the highest coefficient of traction available. Brooms are very efficient but are limited by the snow depth as they cannot move bulk quantities. We pay very close attention during storm onset to monitor the pavement conditions to prevent wet pavement from freezing and causing icing conditions.
Heavy Snow Events
During heavy snow events, or later in a moderate snow event, plows are used for bulk removal and a snow blower is utilized to prevent snow piles or windrows along the side of taxiways/runways. There are times when plows may need to run in front of brooms to provide an acceptable surface for aircraft.
Icing conditions will often require a chemical approach to clearing. Liquid deicer is the fast-acting method applied with the above trucks that are equipped with 50-foot spray booms. Solid deicer is used to burn through existing ice to reclaim iced pavements or to extend the hold time on pavements treated with liquid anti-icer.
The goal for winter weather is to maintain the parallel runways and the primary taxiways including the ramps to allow for operations. During heavy events or periods of minimal staffing, we go into “circle the wagons” mode and focus on one runway in order to keep flights operating.
Flight delays, airport closures, and pavement closures have a negative effect on the airport, airlines, passengers, and everyone involved in aviation in Wichita. While we have a “whatever it takes” attitude to maintain flight operations, there is one thing we are not willing to do. We cannot and will not jeopardize the safety of aircraft, passengers, employees, or the public to maintain operations.
Training is our primary weapon against failure in keeping the airport safely open during winter weather. Each week, all snow equipment is run by employees to stay familiar with proper operation so the equipment is ready when called upon. Employees will perform recurrent training throughout the winter season on equipment operation and best practices. A snow rodeo is held every year as a dry run for the upcoming season to knock the rust from seasoned employees and give newer employees a chance to go through the motions of running patterns and efficient turnarounds. Tabletop exercises are done with salt or flour being used for snow and scaled marking of intersections to show proper and efficient means of clearing intersections and feeders.