Left: Snow clearing operations at
Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport (DEN), Aspen/Pitkin County Airport and Centennial Airport in Colorado, USA, have each been recognized with a prestigious national award for excellence in maintaining airport operations during challenging winter conditions.
The airports each received the Balchen/Post award – which recognizes airports for outstanding snow and ice removal teams that result in safe operations – from the Northeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) at the annual International Aviation Snow Symposium on April 27.
The awards are based on a wide range of criteria for work during the 2015-2016 snow season, including snow and ice control plans; equipment readiness; personnel training; overall safety awareness; timely communication with airlines, the public and other airport stakeholders; storm cleanup; and the effectiveness of snow and ice control plans on runways and other surfaces.
DEN was named the winner in the category of large commercial airports with more than 200,000 operations annually. At 53 square miles, DEN is the USA’s largest commercial airport with snow removal operations that include six runways, 300 lane-miles of roads and 30 acres of parking lots with more than 40,000 parking spaces. DEN has about 500 trained snow removal personnel who work in nine teams, 250 pieces of airside snow removal equipment and 110 pieces of snow removal equipment for landside roads and parking lots. DEN also posts a ‘snowman’ in the Federal Aviation Administration control tower to provide a single point of contact and coordination between the airport and controllers. From the 2010 to 2015 snow seasons, DEN received an average of 50.6in of snow each season. As of April 28, DEN has received a total of 69.3in of snow this season.
“Keeping the country’s largest airport open and operating can be a major challenge, especially during Colorado’s snowy winter months,” said Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day. “We are fortunate to have dedicated and talented snow teams who love the wintry battle. Thanks to their planning, execution and dedication, DEN maintains a safe and efficient airfield and keeps aircraft and travelers moving in the harshest of conditions.”
Aspen/Pitkin County Airport was named the winner among small commercial airports with fewer than 100,000 operations annually. Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has a seasonal peak of 40 daily flights to nearly every major hub west of Atlanta, and is one of the busiest corporate jet airports during the winter and summer holidays. The airport has 39 trained snow-removal employees operating 24 pieces of specialized airside and landside equipment. Aspen receives an average of 150in of snow annually, and is the closest airport to a ski slope in all of North America.
“We have a lean and very responsive team of highly dedicated employees – it’s so exciting for them to be recognized nationally by their peers,” said John Kinney, airport director for Aspen/Pitkin County. “Also, having three Colorado airports receive this award speaks well to our state’s systems approach to keeping these public utilities – airports – safe and open during snow events. We exchange nearly half a million passengers between DEN, Centennial and Aspen annually. They are part of our success in Aspen as well.”
Centennial Airport, located in Englewood, Colorado, was the winner in the large general aviation airport category. With more than 300,000 operations each year, Centennial Airport is the second busiest general aviation airport in the USA, and a 14-time winner of the Balchen/Post. Centennial Airport typically does not close runways for plowing, but rather, plows in between take-offs and landings.
“With higher than average snowfall, this has been a particularly challenging winter for Centennial Airport,” said assistant airport director Lorie Hinton. “A great deal of the credit for this award goes to our dedicated maintenance and operations personnel who commit to some pretty long hours, ensuring the airport stays open for everyone – including our many critical medevac operations. Each time we see an aircraft depart or land during a storm, we feel a great sense of pride knowing we helped make that possible.”