Ski Liberty snow cat waded in to "groom" BWI
Here's a story we missed during last year's twin blizzards: When BWI-Marshall Airport found itself without the equipment they needed for snow removal around sensitive runway "glide slope" antennas, they lifted their eyes unto the hills, whence came their help.
The glide slope equipment is a critical piece of the airport's Instrument Landing System, guiding pilots to the ground when visibility is poor, telling them when they are too high or too low. But it is sensitive to uneven terrain around the antennas, and the 44 inches of snow that had fallen in less than a week was affecting the accuracy of the data being sent to approaching aircraft.
Here's how BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean recounted the tale, which began just after the end of the second storm, on Feb. 9-10:
"The depth of the snow was causing variations in the readings [the system] was producing. It wasn't an issue [so long as] the weather was clear. But the carriers were concerned about this technology. They wanted to ensure it would be available to use should the weather be bad after the storms."
"The airport snow removal equipment is designed to plow and blow snow from runways and taxiways and other paved surfaces. It would not be able to operate on grassy surfaces."
The airport's plows and blowers would have torn up the grass and could have become bogged down in mud, Dean said:
"Our airport manager came up with the idea. He contacted the professionals at Ski Liberty. They were very enthusiastic and very gracious, and did not hesitate in bringing that equipment down from Pennsylvania. And the operation worked beautifully."
Liberty Mountain Resort's PistenBully 600 snow cat was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled the 83 miles from Waynesboro, Pa., arriving on the evening of Feb. 11. It was re-assembled overnight, and the Ski Liberty crew went to work the next morning. The operator reduced the snow cover and groomed the snow over an area the size of "a couple of football fields" across two areas of snow-covered airport property on Runway 10-28.
The work was done in one day, Dean said, and the glide slope system was back on line. The snow cat crew's compensation? "We bought them dinner," Dean said.
"It was a unique, outside-the-box operation (in idea and execution) that was a real benefit to BWI and our airline partners," Dean said. "The work was acknowledged and praised by the FAA and other airports throughout the country."
(PHOTOS: BWI-Marshall Airport, used with permission)