Salt Lake City airport crews work 24/7 to clear snow from runways

Jan 11, 2024, 6:32 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2024, 7:25 am

A blower shoots snow off of a runway at Salt Lake International. (KSL TV)...

A blower shoots snow off of a runway at Salt Lake International. (KSL TV)


SALT LAKE CITY — With more snow ahead of another holiday weekend, the Salt Lake City International Airport has more than 100 maintenance and operations crew members working around the clock to ensure planes can land and take off safely. 

“We run five different snow crews. We run three on our taxiways and runways taking care of those. We run another crew on our ramp aprons and another crew on our roadways” said David Tingey, airfield maintenance operations support manager at the airport.

Since last Saturday, crews have been working on pretreating and then plowing all the snow that has moved in.

Maintenance typically starts with pretreatment made up of a special chemical approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We can’t use salt anywhere that an airplane works or operates,” Tingey said. “Our main chemical is going to be a liquid potassium acetate. Then we also use dry chemical, which is either sodium format or sodium acetate mixed in with attraction sand, and that together works fairly well.”

When storms move in and snow collects on the ground, drivers managing the snowplows, and snowblowers are deployed.

The airport has five snow crews to clear taxiways, runways, ramps and roads. (KSL TV) Airport snow plows have special blades that protect the runways and lights that are installed in the concrete. (KSL TV) A warehouse stores some of the chemicals used to pretreat the runways when winter storms move in. (KSL TV)

Snowplows move in first pushing off snow from runways, taxiways, and other areas. Plows are made with special rubber and plastic blades to protect lighting that’s in the pavement.

Snowblowers then shoot the snow off to open fields, and Mother Nature takes over leaving the snow to melt off.

Finally, large trucks carrying steel bristle brooms and air blowers move in to remove anything that can damage an aircraft.

How weather is monitored at the Salt Lake airport

When crews aren’t moving all that heavy machinery, the equipment is being cleaned or checked for any maintenance issues.

While there is much more these crews do, those steps are repeated as needed, and even more so as another storm is expected to hit the Wasatch Front.

 “The crews here at the airport are very dedicated, very talented, and they really want to do a good job, take a lot of pride in what they do. They want to get you out of here on time, but they want you to be safe first and foremost. So if you see a delay or you wonder why something isn’t happening is because safety first,” Tingey said.

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Salt Lake City airport crews work 24/7 to clear snow from runways