Aspen airport making purchase for better snow removal |

Aspen airport making purchase for better snow removal

Snowstorms can hit the Aspen area at almost any time of the year, including late spring and early fall. Aspen-Pitkin County Airport officials took steps Tuesday to make sure they’re ready for snow at any time.

During the Tuesday Pitkin Board of County Commissioners work session, airport officials received unanimous support to purchase a third airport runway broom truck for clearing snow.

The airport currently has two Oshkosh H-Series Airport Brooms in its maintenance fleet. An airport runway broom is an oversized truck with a large, round scrubber, or broom, attached to the front of the truck. The broom spins and quickly removes accumulated snow.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations mandate that the airport keep the runway, primary taxiways and aircraft ramps clear of snow within 30 minutes if one inch of snow (weighing up to 25 pounds per foot) accumulates. If one of the two existing brooms were to go out of service for any length of time, even a minor snowstorm could put the airport at risk of failing to comply with FAA regulations.

“We need reliability and redundancy with our snow removal capabilities,” said Dustin Havel, the airport’s assistant aviation director.

“Removing snow from our high-speed runway and getting down to bare pavement is our top priority. We had an instance after a fall storm a few years ago where one of our brooms broke down for a month while we waited for replacement parts. By purchasing a third broom, we’re making sure the airport will always have two brooms ready to go,” Havel said.

Originally, the airport planned to buy a combination plow-broom unit in 2014. Representatives from the Aspen airport recently visited Denver International Airport to see and operate a combination unit. After seeing the combo unit themselves, Aspen representatives decided that two separate units would work best. They instead decided to purchase a new airport broom and keep the current plow for another year.

“A combo plow and broom just isn’t the best fit for our needs,” Havel said.

Jonah Frank, the airport fleet manager, said it’s critical for the airport to have operational brooms to keep the airport going. He said the brooms probably get the hardest use of all airport-maintenance equipment.

“The brooms average about 500 hours of use per year,” Frank said. “They operate at a fairly high rate of speed with the broom in contact with the runway.”

The 2014 airport budget included $780,000 for a replacement plow and that total included $120,000 from the sale of the existing 2005 Oshkosh plow truck. Changing the purchase to an additional runway broom will cost approximately $650,000, $10,000 below the current budgeted needs.

Havel said the funds for a planned 2015 purchase of a new airport plow would be addressed later this year.

“Obviously we’ll be going through the 2015 budget cycle and will work with everybody on that,” Havel said. “But right now, it looks like the money will come from Passenger Facility charges for replacing that piece of equipment.”

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