Working on an active runway: How crews keep Fairbanks International Airport open

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Fairbanks International Airport is vital to Interior Alaska... as well as being an alternate for Anchorage, or even international air traffic. To keep the airport open during the winter, crews work around the clock to keep the runway clear of snow. Crews of eight people work 12-hour shifts to plow 24 hours a day during snowstorms.

A front loader is seen moving snow away from the terminal at Fairbanks International Airport. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

"It takes five runway brooms to keep the runway and taxiway open in a snow event. So it doesn't leave a lot of guys when you got an eight-man crew to do the peripheral work of intersections and ramps and parking lots," said Clark Klimaschesky, the Chief of Maintenance at the airport.

Crews use brooms, snow blowers, front loaders, graders, and other equipment to keep the runway free of snow.

One of the biggest challenges at FAI is working on an active runway.

"We have one runway. We don't have the luxury of having multiple where we can close one and go work on it and then open and move on to the next,” Klimaschesky said.

To work safely on the runway, crews work extensively with the air traffic controllers.

"We work with the tower pretty closely to get out there and get the snow removed so the planes can come and go safely," Klimaschesky said.

Keeping the airport open is important for Interior Alaskan communities to get supplies and medical help. Fairbanks also serves as an alternate airport for Anchorage. If Fairbanks gets closed, planes may have to divert from Anchorage costing both airports revenue.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.