The snow is gone – or at least it ought to be – until next winter.
But that doesn’t mean that snow fighters like Joseph Guarino, Gary Kogut and Todd Rushing are letting their guard down.
They are three of the more than 900 airport snow-removal experts in Buffalo this weekend talking about strategies for making airports safer for winter travelers and looking at the newest, biggest snowfighting equipment on the market.
The latest development is “multi-tasking” equipment.
“You now have one piece of equipment that can plow away the snow to a depth of about a half-inch. Then, you have a brushing unit that brushes away the remaining snow and ice, and after that, a machine that blows it all away,” Kogut said.
Between Saturday and Wednesday, those attending the Snow Symposium sponsored by airport executives will participate in a “Snow Academy” and learn about the latest technological developments, including the big, new “multi-tasking” machines that can cost as much as $850,000 and weigh as much as 25 tons.
Kogut sells heavy equipment and is one of the organizers of the annual Snow Symposium.
Rushing, a safety specialist who works for a Virginia company that makes snow removal equipment, is the vendor chairman for the event.
Kogut, Rushing and Guarino spoke to a reporter on Friday afternoon, as the first of more then 100 pieces of snow-removal equipment was rolling in to the exhibition floor at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center on Franklin Street.
Each winter, snow removal is a logistical and safety nightmare for airports all over the world. Every year, manufacturers come out with bigger, better-designed and more powerful machines to remove snow.
“This is an important safety issue,” said Guarino, airfield superintendent at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and chairman of the symposium. “We have people here from all over the country, all over the world, sharing their best information and their best practices. We’re all here to share information that works for us.”
Events will include a “snow plow rodeo” competition, and training sessions on runway safety, the impact of wildlife on airport safety and other topics.
Clearing an airport of ice and snow is nothing like plowing a driveway or road, and leaving a new coating of ice or a few slippery spots. Under Federal Aviation Administration requirements, an airport runway “always has to be cleared right to the pavement,” Guarino said.
“As I always tell our crews at the airport, ‘We don’t open a runway until it’s safe enough that we’d let our own children land on it.’ ”
The American Association of Airport Executives has held its annual Snow Symposium for 50 years now. For the past 31 years, the event has been held in Buffalo, a community that knows a little bit about removing the winter precipitation.
“Back before 1966, before this symposium was started, people from different airports in different cities didn’t really do much to share information,” Guarino said. “Now we learn from each other.”
Guarino and Kogut, a former Buffalo airport official, said they are proud of the reputation that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has earned for keeping its airfield safe and free of major weather-related accidents in 89 years of operations.
“We do a great job on our runways,” Guarino said. But he added that he and other airport officials are always looking for improvement.
Organizers said airport employees will attend classes on Saturday and Sunday, with other events scheduled Monday through Wednesday.