Ford International Airport introduces first snow blower of its kind in the country

Posted at 5:05 AM, Feb 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-10 05:05:25-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Snow not only causes delays on the road, but in the air. But now Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids owns the only snow blower of it’s kind in the country, with the goal of clearing the runways faster and cutting down on delays.

The airport has 1,550,000 square yards of pavement on the field which is enough concrete to build a two-lane road from Grand Rapids to the Mackinaw Bridge! Add snow to the mix, and it’s a big project for field maintenance crews on snow days. But that has changed this winter.

“We have something unique here and different,” said Jeff McNally, field maintenance supervisor at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

The airport purchased what is called the Snow Wolf, and it's a beast of a snow blower. That's snow blower, not snow plow. The machine is capable of throwing snow over 140 feet and clear and 7,500-foot path in an hour.

“It didn’t matter what kind of snow is thrown at us, we are manhandling it right now.”

What’s more, travelers will only see it in West Michigan.

McNally spent the past few years trying to obtain the massive snow blower for Grand Rapids to help reduce flight delays and increase safety for pilots and passengers.

McNally credits airport officials for seeing the importance of it and investing in the machine. Every winter, his team clears enough snow to fill 20,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

In addition, the airport can only use certain materials on the runways.

“Salt is an engine killer, if you will, and not allowed on the airfield,” McNally explained.

Instead, the airport uses Federal Aviation Administration-approved chemicals and heated sand.

More than 60 inches of snow has already blanketed the airfield this season, and in an industry where time is money, the Snow Wolf couldn’t be a better investment.

“Snow removal is only as fast as a blower is able to put that snow off the pavement,” McNally said.

“This has allowed us to touch snow once.”

The airport paid for the Snow Wolf with 100% local funds.