It may be midsummer, but DFW International Airport knows that winter is coming.

In June, the airport began a snowplow training program to teach 100 employees how to use the $30 million worth of equipment the airport has purchased since 2011.

“We just never know when they’re [winter storms] going to happen, but we’ve got to be prepared,” said Jud Piner, manager of pavement and grounds at DFW. “You can’t have too much training.”

After the winter storm that hit the week of Super Bowl XLV in 2011 and the crippling ice storm of 2013, American Airlines determined that DFW needed to be a “winter-ready” airport.

According to Matt Miller, a spokesman for American, the company is supportive of the snowplow endeavor and provided monetary support.

In addition to the 24 Oshkosh snowplows — at $900,000 each — the airport also purchased deicing trucks and large snowblowers.

“Compared to the old equipment we had, this is like night and day,” Piner said.

Clearing the 150- to 200-foot-wide runways of ice and snow will require 10 snowplows to work in tandem. The plows move in a V formation, with several feet of overlap to ensure no lines of snow will slip through the cracks.

With the new equipment, it should take only 30 minutes to clear a runway.

Some of the most important things the workers are practicing are turning at the same time and switching from one formation to another.

Jim Wardlow, the airport’s signs and markings supervisor, is the man in charge of formations.

So far, Wardlow said, training is going well and the workers love it.

“I think it’s a break from what they’re doing,” he said.

The 100 workers tasked with learning snowplow skills all have different full-time jobs at the airport.

“To be quite frank, I hope we never ever have to use these,” Wardlow of the machines. “But it’s a good safeguard.”

Starting in early fall, the training sessions will start at 2 a.m. to prepare workers for the 12-hour shifts they will have to work if rough weather hits.

But for now, in the heat of the summer, the workers are just glad their snowplows are air-conditioned.

 

Presented by The Dallas Morning News – July 27, 2017

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