Carefully executed routine keeps MSP Airport clear during snowstorms

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It takes teamwork to sure Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport runs smoothly in the middle of all the snow, and if the field maintenance crew are the players, Charlie is their coach – they even have a play book.

Charlie Beuning is the Assistant Manager for Field Maintenance at MSP.  

“We have runway teams, taxi team, gate area teams, teams on roadways and even on the sidewalks,” he said. “Just execution, everyone knowing their plays and nobody freelancing.” 

One of their most efficient plays can get a run way cleared in minutes.

“With two teams, we can plow, broom, liquid de-ice and sand a 10,000-foot runway in five minutes," Beuning said.

Beuning said it’s been a long month so far – crews have even had to sleep there for days on end in bunks.

“They’re getting tired. I mean, these folks have been here the last couple of days, they haven’t gotten home to see their families, they’re eating a lot of the same food and they need some rest.” 

But, this kind of weather is what his team trains for long before the first flakes fall.

“What we do is we actually do dry runs out there through the late fall, we practice our plays so we can execute during foul weather,” Beuning said.

And it’s big business to keep the runways clear, which can be seen in their equipment.

The airport has developed the machinery themselves, designed to clear snow from the runway lights - a task that used to be done by shoveling each light. There are also huge snow blowers and giant brooms, all meant to keep the airport moving in any condition.

“The planes wouldn’t operate if we didn’t have the equipment or the personnel or the training. It would significantly impact MSP Airport,” Beuning said.

Though the snow has stopped, crews were still working Tuesday night.