Airport snow removal

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by muddy00, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. muddy00

    muddy00 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    For those of you in areas that get snow as a normal occurrence, how long does it take your airport authority to plow the ramps and hangar areas after a snowfall? Ours seems to be about 3 days after an inch of snow.( Class C airport ) This weekend we got 11” so I’m betting on a week. Just curious if this is the norm out there.
     
  2. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    My homedrone (a township owned class G airport) is good...it is plowed by dedicated guys who consider it a first priority. So, at home, the snow is usually gone within 12 hours of the end of the snowfall. During a predicted significant snow, they usually start plowing mid-snowstorm, just to stay ahead of it.
    Now, for many of the municipal fields around my homedrone, this is not the case. Most municipalities consider the airports "secondary", and they only get plowed after every single road in their jurisdiction is plowed first...which means the airport can wait for days, if not up to a week, to get plowed. So even though my field is plowed, I really can't go anywhere semi-local because they don't plow all around me.
    Then there are the worst ones: I know of a few northern Michigan paved runways where the county plow trucks just "give up" and stop plowing the runways after a certain amount of snow. Last winter, every paved runway within an hour drive of my parent's house was shut down until spring after a particularly big snowfall.
     
  3. Badger

    Badger Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    class C, cleared less than 8 hours after end of snowfall. (Wisconsin)
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
  4. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips Pattern Altitude

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    KAKR had the runway and taxiways plowed immediately the last time I was traveling there, but they didn't touch the ramps at the FBO, and neither did the FBOwner, until a day later. I had to leave the plane there and drive home.
     
  5. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    Class E in north central Vermont, cleared within a few hours of end of snowfall from what I can tell (24 at most). That doesn't mean the ramps will be navigable though, as they do not clear ice. A bigger problem is parking at the hangar: at the community hangar it can be literally weeks before they plow the lot.
     
  6. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We get lots of snow, small uncontrolled field, they use graders and normal snow equipment, minus spreading sand vs salt, whenever the graders are working the town they pass through the airport too.
     
  7. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    How much money do they have?
     
  8. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Cleared for Takeoff

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    The answer is...it depends.

    We are a Class E commercial service airport. We have a small staff, but a decent fleet of equipment. The airport is divided up into priorities. Primary runway, commercial ramp, and ARFF access routes are first. If it is still snowing, that may be all that is available.

    Once it quits snowing it will take us a minimum of 12 hours to get everything. Depending on the amount, and more importantly, the consistency of the snow, it can take days. Especially around hangars and buildings, where high winds can create huge drifts that take a lot of time to remove. Throw a little ice under that snow, and it really slows our operation as the equipment is traction limited and can't push much.
     
  9. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    At Anchorage the big airport gets priority. Plows are running as soon as it starts snowing 24/7. When the big airport is under control they'll plow the GA area. It may take a couple of days depending on the rate of snowfall and how hard it is for them to keep the airline's side open.
     
  10. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I will add, our crew works hard and does the best it can with the resources we have. We can't plow the whole airport at once. We have to prioritize based on assumptions of what will be used first. Airline and public ramps we can assume will be needed sooner than later. Hangar tenants usually not. But we do have an understanding with our tenants, if you call us ahead of time and let us know you need out or in, we will make every effort to have at least a path for you opened up in time. This has worked well for us. Perhaps your airport could too if approached right. Better than just a general complaint on how long it took.
     
  11. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

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    If you are at an airport with schedule airline service, your hangar is going to be last on the list.
     
  12. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Cleared for Takeoff

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    That is true, but please understand its nothing personal. We know the airline is scheduled to operate and will in nearly any conditions. With 50 other aircraft stored in various hangars, we have no idea if or when any will need to be flying.
     
  13. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    Anybody who has never plowed an airport probably has no idea how much area there is to plow. To get things completely clear after a snowstorm will take some time and the hangar/parking areas are usually the last things that get done. As was previously noted, the runway (or at least the primary runway) is usually first on the list for being cleared, then enough taxiway to get back to the ramp, then the ramp and so on.

    The towered airport I'm currently based at will typically be clear enough to use in short order but it takes longer to get the hangar areas clear. After the snow we got this past Saturday I was able to fly Sunday afternoon but most of the parking and hangar areas were still snow covered. The nontowered airport I work at was mostly clear by the same time, but the snow removal job was less than adequate (and they thought they were done).
     
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  14. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Haha, preach! After over a decade of doing this, my wife still asks why it takes so long to plow. It was only an inch! Hard to grasp how big several million square feet of pavement actually is, and it all gets plowed whether its one inch or 20.
     
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  15. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pattern Altitude

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    Our municipal usually has the runway cleared before its light outside. If its really heavy snow they seem to get to the hangars fairly quickly. If its light snow its like they might do other city work first and then around the hangars. No matter what the renters all have a about 2ft wide of snow as much as 3ft tall in front of the doors that the plow doesn't quite get to. The ice is the worst. We're north facing. A kiss of sun in the morning to get it melting and then shade all day. Nothing beats an ice chipper that has just been sharpened on the grinder!
     
  16. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    All true, but at my airport, it's pretty clear that the community hangar parking area is simply neglected. It's not that they take a few days longer than the ramps and runways, it is LITERALLY weeks, usually after several snowstorms worth of snowfall, before anything is done. Even then, it's generally not cleared, they just plow a path to the gate, probably for use by emergency vehicles. By contrast, the parking areas at the terminal building and the FBO are usually cleared in the same time frame as the interior paved surfaces, i.e. hours to maybe a day.
     
  17. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Lincoln NE, Class C with airline service, national guard, big corporate jet maintenance facility, they are on the ball but they don't typically start cleaning out the T-hangar rows till the next day.
     
  18. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    I enjoyed one season in the St. Louis area. Creve Coeur.

    Everything was cleared fairly quickly, like 24 hours, EXCEPT the apron between the hangar door and the taxiway. I learned the hard lesson that pulling the plane OUT over that bit of snow/slush/ice was much easier than pushing the plane IN. Tried in vain for a bit and then taxied the plane down to the ramp and grabbed a shovel, never to be repeated.
     
  19. muddy00

    muddy00 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’ve plowed snow for 20+ years and I realize some snows are worse than others like
    The one this last week. Issue is you have to push as the snow comes down. You can’t wait for 11” to fall then try and play catch up. I realize the main areas and runways take priority.
     
  20. mondtster

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    Who is responsible for plowing the snow? Do they have any incentive to get it done?

    The first airport I hangared an airplane at relief on the county to plow the snow. I think the airport was at the absolute bottom of the priority list and it would often take the better part of a week to get plowed out. By that point in time there was probably another storm coming or it might have even passed through already.

    Every airport is structured a little different so there are no hard and fast rules on this sort of thing. The smaller airports often get neglected and there might be local politics or personal agendas influencing things that make for next to impossible situations.
     
  21. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    It is a state-owned airport, but my understanding is it's the county that does the plowing. I've complained to the FBO owner but he has little real incentive to press them as we (community hangar tenants) pay each month regardless. We are captive customers because there are no other airports closer than an hour's drive. So I would say no, there is really no incentive for them to get it plowed.
     
  22. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Runways, transient parking, and "movement area" taxiways (we are uncontrolled) are cleared by noon assuming it was overnight snowfall. Taxiways to between hangars are done last, but usually right after. Hangar tenants are responsible for clearing the approaches up to the hangar doors from the taxiway.
     
  23. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've been based in 3 places since I've started flying (16 years ago):

    KMSN: Class C, 2nd busiest airport in Wisconsin. Airlines, mostly RJs but Delta has A320s and mad dogs in and out of here. Military, ANG F-16s and helicopters and a fair amount of transient military traffic. Lots of GA traffic from bizjets to training.
    KMWC: Class D. GA only, mostly training and transient piston aircraft, with some turboprops and small bizjets (both based and transient). Milwaukee County's "other airport" which is generally neglected in favor of pouring all the funding into KMKE.
    KUES: Class D. GA only, but longer runways than KMWC, so lots more turboprop and jet traffic as well. This is the third-busiest airport in the state, behind KMKE and KMSN.

    I would say that for all of the above, in general the plowing is done before I want to go fly, so probably by noon if it was overnight snow. That includes ramp and hangar areas.

    I have had *one* instance where the taxiway in front of my hangar wasn't done at UES, but I was leaving not long after the storm, and I just had to go flag down a guy operating a plow and ask him to come over and do our row next, so it only delayed me by maybe 10-15 minutes at most.

    We also had an instance at MWC where I couldn't fly for about 6 weeks because we got 4-6 inches of snow, and then it warmed up a bit above freezing and we got several inches of freezing rain. Someone had driven a truck through my hangar row in the middle... So we had about 4 inches of solid ice, with truck tracks diagonally through it so the tug couldn't even get us out safely. That wasn't really the fault of the airport, though. I think they had been actively plowing the runways and taxiways during the storm and the hangar rows were iced up before they got to their first pass there.

    MWC also did the snow removal to within a couple feet of the hangar as described above, because that's as close as the plow would get to the hangar doors to avoid damage. You had to either shovel the rest out a few feet into the taxiway, or call the FBO and they would bring a pickup and take care of it with your door open. The county would then come by and re-clear the taxiways later. At UES, in the taxiway rows they use the style of plows that are like a big straight bucket with end caps so that they're not pushing snow sideways at all, so it's much easier to clear that last couple feet. I'm also in a hangar that's shared with one other guy and owned by a third guy, so often one of them will get to it first.
     
  24. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    Nice that the FBO will help you out with the snow. The only place I've been where I was responsible to remove any snow was at KVLL, in Michigan. The taxiways between the hangars were always promptly plowed, but the plows didn't have end caps and much of the overflow did end up in front of the hangar doors. To prevent that, I usually tried to drive out whenever there was a significant snowfall and beat them to it - I'd clear to about 10-15 feet in front of my hangar door, that was usually enough to prevent any issue.

    Here the snow removal situation is (barely) tolerable. Though you can't park in the lot, once they clear the taxiways it is usually possible to drive on them from the main gate by the FBO to the community hangar, and park on an unused area of the ramp there. I say "usually" because there have been times when the taxiways were solid ice - of course, I wouldn't want to operate a plane on that kind of surface, either. Someone else in the community hangar once needed to ask the FBO to tow him to the ice-free part of the main parallel taxiway. That was last year when it was so bad I chickened out of even trying to drive up to the hangar; I didn't ask him how he managed it. (Maybe he didn't; it's possible the FBO gave him a ride.)

    The bright side is that I don't have to do any shoveling. The darker side is that there are severe limitations on when I can fly. And that's gotten worse over the last couple of weeks, as the last two times I tried to ask the FBO to plug in my preheater, they were closed tight around 1600, which is still normal business hours. With the main gate locked, I couldn't even drive over to do it myself (I guess I could have walked along the highway from the FBO, but that's more than I was up for, especially after dark.)