What comes down ... Kenai airport crews must clean up

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011

While thousands of flights have been canceled due to a massive winter storm sweeping across nearly half of the Lower 48, it has been business as usual for Kenai Municipal Airport, even on the heels of a storm that dropped several inches of unseasonably wet, heavy snow.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Dan Evenson plows snow past Norm Erickson, operating a blower, during operations Wednesday to clear snow from the runways at Kenai Municipal Airport. The blade on Evenson's truck is half as wide as a school bus is long. At top, Erickson works on a taxi way as an Era Alaska Dash-8 approaches the terminal. No flights were canceled during this week's storm.

Airport manager Mary Bondurant herself joined a crew of four Wednesday morning, who have been working 12-hour shifts to remove snow on the runway.

"I was working on the ramp," she said. "They say we only got five inches of snow but I think there's more than that out here."

Bondurant said the airport has a system plan to maintain safe operations during intense weather conditions.

"We have to start plowing when there's a half of an inch of slush or two inches of dry snow," she said.

The airport also uses all of its equipment, including a grader, two loaders, snow blowers and even powered brooms to keep the snow off of the runway and taxi areas, she said.

"Unless the weather makes the planes incapable of flying we have to keep the runway open," Bondurant said.

Between Kenai Airport's two commercial airlines there are typically 27 flights a day, she said. Not one has been canceled because of the snow.

"We're out there first thing in the morning. We do a runway check at least an hour prior to the first flight of the day so pilots are aware of conditions of the runway," she said.

Jason Nunn, station manager for Grant Aviation in Kenai, said all of their flights have mostly been on time.

"It's not been too disruptive actually at all," he said. "Not as much as you would expect."

Nunn said that could be attributed to the airport's work on keeping the runway open.

"They do a remarkable job and I'm not saying that lightly," he said.

Kathy Roser, Kenai station manager for Era Aviation, said they have been maintaining their flight schedule, too.

"We have to do a lot of de-icing," she said. "As far as the airlines go it really hasn't caused too much grief for us."

And while Bondurant said the airport crews might be tired, they are working to ensure all flights are safe and sound.

"We're here sometimes from four in the morning to midnight snow plowing, and applying chemicals and sand to ensure safe operations," she said.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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