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KCI uses sand, rubber blades, brooms to clear runways and taxiways

KCI snow plow.jpg
Posted at 7:16 AM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 08:16:16-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Clearing snow from a runway is a lot different than clearing it from a highway.

Joe McBride, the communication manager at the Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, pointed out a few of the differences.

First, operations crews use rubber blades on their snow plows.

McBride said there are lights built into the pavement of the runway and taxiway. A conventional, steel snow plow blade would pop the lights out of place. Rubber glides over the lights without damaging them.

The crews also use brooms to remove snow and have a giant snow blower to make sure all the snow gets off the runway.

McBride said the airport cannot use rock salt on the runway like public works crews do around the metro. That salt would damage the aluminum planes are made of. So instead of salt, crews use sand to give aircraft a little more traction on the ice or snow.

The city recently ordered about 400 tons of sand, which started arriving at the airport Tuesday. McBride pointed out it is a finer grade of sand. If pebbles or grains are too big, they could damage jet engines or propellers.

There are three runways at KCI, so airport management works with the airlines to coordinate which areas are closed while crews plow them.

“I think sometimes people take it for granted, they land at an airport and things are fine and they hug their loved ones when they arrive. But that whole process in a winter situation like we have right now is due to some dedicated folks here at the airport,” McBride said.

Plowing the taxiway and runway is about the same as plowing 250 football fields.