NewsLocal NewsGrand Rapids


Snow Problem: Crews at Ford International have snow clearing down to a science

Amid delays and cancellations tied to COVID, maintenance crews are keeping runways snow-free
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 19:05:07-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Think you have trouble clearing your driveway of snow? Imagine having to clear a few inches off a mile-long runway. That’s the task the maintenance crews at Gerald R. Ford International Airport face each time it snows — and they aren’t upset about it.

“I love it,” said Kevin Delaney, director of maintenance at the airport. “When it snows, we all get really excited.”

Perhaps it’s because the crews are wildly equipped to handle snowfall. Armed with a fleet of blowers, plows and a massive snowblower affectionately named the Snow Wolf, the crews start planning their approach 72 hours before weather even hits the airport.

“We’re looking at the forecast, working with our stakeholders, airlines, as well as our other partners like the National Weather Service,” said Delaney.

The crews, which work around the clock during winter weather, use a combination of liquid and hard salt to keep snow off the runways and to prevent sliding. With airports around the country already facing an abnormal number of delays and cancellations due to staffing issues caused by COVID-19 cases, the work of getting planes in the air becomes ever more important when weather hits.

Airport COO Alex Peric says Ford International is seeing around 15–20% of their flights delayed or canceled, on par with airports around the country.

“This time of year is really the Super Bowl for our maintenance staff,” said Peric. “We’re always trying to mitigate the travelers' stress and this is definitely a challenge for us.”

Peric recommends arriving to the airport two hours before your flight. He also recommends you check the Ford International Flight Tracker or your airline’s website for the most up-to-date information.

The Ford maintenance crew has 18 full-time employees and recently hired 19 additional seasonal workers to help with the task of clearing snow.

“We know what our job is; we know the challenges that we face on a given day,” says Delaney. “But we’re always ready.”

READ MORE: 'Slow down!': Multiple crashes reported along US-131

WEATHER: Heavy snow and strong winds continue

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube