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How does the Great Falls airport tackle heavy snow?

Snow plow at Great Falls airport
Posted at 10:55 AM, Dec 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-02 13:36:17-05

When snow is falling, Great Falls International Airport’s fleet of seven large snow plows can make quick work of it.

Ryan Heintzelman has been climbing into the cabs of snow plows at the airport for years. He's the airport foreman and says dealing with snow starts with the forecast.

"We're constantly checking the forecast to see what kind of temps we're going to get and also how much snow is supposed to come in,” Heintzelman.

Aside from being bigger than the snow plows you see on the street, the plows have two unique pieces of equipment to help them get the job done.

"We have our under-body scraper down here. We use that in a situation where we get ice accumulated on the runway. It does a good job of getting that peeled up off the ground. After that, you still have the broom tailing behind you. It's 22 feet in length,” Heintzelman said as he walked along side a plow.

Heintzelman was kind enough to demonstrate how the broom works, using it to brush a small patch of snow off the ground outside the garage where the plows are stored.

"On the first storm (of the year), you always have some kinks to work out. After that, everybody kind of gets in the groove of things,” said Heinzelman. "It can take anywhere between two and four hours to clean the entire airfield and that really doesn't matter if it's five to six inches or a half an inch. It's all the same surface no matter what. These trucks are capable of moving a lot of snow."

As much work as the job can sometimes be, he says he enjoys getting to put in some time with the plows.

"For sure, yeah. These pieces of equipment are unlike anything out there,” said Heintzelman.