By Maria Romanick, Operations and Maintenance Manager, Minot International Airport
Winter Ops – It sure doesn’t seem like we’ve had much of a true winter yet this year, but I am not going to fall for that quite yet. At the time thi s article gets published, we will have made it through the holidays without significant snowfall to affect holiday travel. I don’t think that’s something that can be said for the last few years, and boy, am I grateful! As the Operations and Maintenance Manager for the Minot International Airport, there are a lot of things to juggle, and the juggling only intensifies during what we call a “snow event.” There are the standard day-to-day functions like monitoring the various surface areas of the airfield and notating them properly within the NOTAMs and FICONS. Daily inspections required by the FAA have to get logged appropriately and timely. Things really start to get exciting once the snow starts flying.
As for many employers these days, it’s been challenging to get and retain skilled employees. A lot of our current employees have started out with little-to-no experience. The time and dedication our team spends on learning from within and from industry experts is vital to what we do. Our team and our equipment fleet is all ages. From brand new to Vietnam-era equipment, the skill sets needed to operate the various types of equipment are endless. And now for a word from our Operations and Maintenance Foreman, Alex Choi.
Q: What goes into keeping an airport safe and operational in the winter?
Continue with recurrent training, continue to be knowledgeable of what we are doing as airport operations and snow removal, share our knowledge, and communicate with each other during actual operations. It is a never-ending task to ensure our equipment is safe and fully functional. Airports must have a good fleet replacement program to replace aging equipment. When the snow flies, airports are required to continuously monitor the airfield. That requires staff to stay alert and be ready to go out as needed. Operations staff must understand the situation and how to react if weather shifts/changes. We do our best to follow Department of Labor and Department of Transportation requirements as good guidelines, in order to prevent operator exhaustion. To the best of our ability, it is our goal to have a fully open and operational airfield throughout the winter, providing a safe and welcoming experience for everyone who uses the airport as their mode of transportation.
Q: How many pieces of equipment do we have working at one time during a snow event?
With our current staffing and schedule, normally we can run one to three pieces of equipment at a time. During Wednesdays, we can run four to five pieces of equipment at once. This operation includes both airside and landside. Operations staff are available 24/7 and must update NOTAMs according to the weather.
Q: What advice do you have for pilots and passengers? And what can pilots do to assist you in this process?
It would be much appreciated if pilots would make a radio call when leaving from the ramp and coming in to land on the runway. Please read NOTAMs for what is open and closed. Any questions? Airport Operations is here to help!
As always, we like to remind the public and passengers that we are trying our best to keep the airfield open and maintain good pavement conditions for the pilot to decide whether or not it is safe to land. As much as we’d like to, we can’t control the weather and visibility. In addition, the airlines have their own policies for IFR requirements. We want you to fly in and out as safely as possible!