The Herald Bulletin

February 6, 2014

Snow brings airport challenges

Salt can't be used on icy runways

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

CHESTERFIELD, Ind. — Motorists know the difficulty road and street crews have in clearing ice and snow, but the winter weather problems at the Anderson Municipal Airport create unique challenges.

John Coon, airport manager, said employees are tasked with clearing the two runways, taxiways and around the hangars.

Coon said the decision to plow the runways is dependent on the expected activity scheduled at Darlington Field. He said the hangar area is always plowed for the PHI emergency medical helicopters.

“During the last storm we had no scheduled activity,” he said. “We started plowing at 4 a.m. and had the runways open and available by dawn.”

The challenge is that unlike road crews the airport can’t use salt because of the corrosive properties of the material, which damages the aluminum parts on the aircraft.

“There are chemicals that can be used,” Coon said. “But they are very expensive and take specialized equipment to apply.”

The airport previously used the chemical urea to prevent icing on the runways. Coon said it was found the urea eroded the cables supporting the lights along the runways.

If freezing rain is forecast for the area, he said, the airport can use potassium acetone on the runways. That chemical prevents the bonding of the precipitation to the runway surface.

“Our budget is shot for snow removal,” Coon said of this year’s higher than average snowfall.

“The biggest expense is for overtime,” he said. “We have used our entire overtime budget for the year in one month.”

The city of Anderson budgeted $1,500 for overtime at the airport for all of 2014. Coon said additional funding for overtime remains an unknown.

As can be expected because of the weather conditions, usage of the airport is down.

Coon said airplanes operate better in cold weather, but people don’t like to fly when it’s cold.

Fuel sales at the airport are down approximately 30 percent from January 2013.

“The weather has impacted the amount of travel,” Coon said.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.