IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – Making sure an airport runway is clear enough for planes to land and take off safely during snow season is such a unique task the Idaho Falls Regional Airport refers to it as a ‘science experiment.’
“It’s all about the temperatures, the winds, the type of contaminant we’re getting. So each one requires a little bit of different operation, and we just need to be able to react to whatever’s going on,” said IDA’s director, Rick Cloutier.
Cloutier says 24 hours before every snow event, the airport discusses their staff, equipment, and predictions for the snow event. It’s a process that helps them get ahead of the storm.
“Each one requires a little bit different operation, and we just need to be able to react to whatever is going on,” Cloutier said.
Snowplows, snow blowers, brooms, friction monitors and potassium-based chemicals are some of the many tools IDA uses to keep the runways safe.
Outside grounds maintenance supervisor Kenny Buttars has been working at the airport for about twenty years. He says just years ago, the snow removal job was done by only two people. It has now evolved into a 7 person diligent team.
“When you can’t see 10 feet in front of you. You don’t want to give up but you know you got to keep going because you got passengers in the air or waiting in the terminal year in and out of here,” Buttars said.
The safety of the passengers that fly out of or into IDA is the number one concern.
“Keep every customer happy, the flying public going, you know, we don’t want to have ever have a closed runaway,” Buttars said.
In the nearly 20 years Buttars has been at IDA, they’ve only had to close the runways down twice because of a snow event.
Cloutier said IDA is self-sufficient and doesn’t use any tax dollars for its operations. The only additional funding they receive is through the Federal Government, which uses money from airline fees.