With hundreds of passengers needing to get somewhere, snow plow crews took to the runways Wednesday morning at Fort Wayne International Airport.
Craig Williams, Ddirector of operations & facilities, managed the crew using two radios, one for the flight control tower, and one for his crew. He kept his men working while still allowing aircraft to come and go. Two long radio cords stretched across his leg to his lap where two identical radio mikes for transmitting and receiving rested.
“I already called the wrong radio twice,” Williams said with a laugh.
All joking aside what the crew was doing was serious business,. They were keeping the runways open. The crew, whose shift started at 3 a.m., was using three snowplows, three brushes and two blowers. In a staggered formation, snowplow, brush, snowplow, brush, snowplow, brush, they roared up and down the landing strips.
The trucks with the blowers worked to keep the snow from piling up on the edges and obscuring the landing lights.
“Windy days are the worst. A wet heavy snow with no wind might take one or two passes and then you are done,” Williams said.
Wednesday the snow was the kind of powder that skiers dream of and the airport ground crews curse. Light and dry it began drifting back across the runway as soon as each pass was done. It was an unending battle of wind and snow.
The crew works 12-hour shifts, and many of them had slept at the airport so they wouldn't have to try and drive to work in the hazardous conditions. By late morning, air traffic was still landing and taking off, although delays and closings at other airports around the country was effecting some of their normal interchange.
“Guys who have worked here 20 years are saying this is the worst winter they have ever seen,” Williams said.
When the crew's 12- hour shift is over, another takes its place.