A BIG JOB: City workers clear runway at Statesville Regional Airport

Posted at 4:37 PM on Jan 25, 2016

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Photo: City employee Will Spears plows the taxiway at Statesville Regional Airport on Monday afternoon.

Clearing the 700,000-square-foot runway is a mammoth undertaking

By Mike Fuhrman

If you thought shoveling the ice and snow from your sidewalk was tough this weekend, be glad you’re not responsible for keeping Statesville Regional Airport clear for the corporate jets that take off and land on the facility’s early 1.33-mile runway each day.

The task of clearing the 700,000 square feet of runway falls to the Statesville Public Works Department and, during the past four to five days specifically, on the broad shoulders of veteran city employees Clyde Fox and Will Spears.

The mailman didn’t make it to many neighborhoods, newspaper carriers couldn’t navigate their way through the snow and ice, and even Charlotte Douglas International Airport closed temporarily over the weekend.

Statesville Regional Airport remained open for business.

“Nobody really wanted to come in on Friday or Saturday,” said Airport Manager John M. Ferguson, who moved into his current position last spring and spent the past few days managing his first major weather event at the airport.

Fox and Spears put in long hours over the weekend to ensure the runway was open on Sunday, when normal traffic resumed.The airport averages about 10 to 12 take-offs and landings per day.

On Sunday, a pair of Lowe’s corporate jets took off, along with jets belonging to NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski, Ferguson said.

By Monday afternoon, the runway was clear and drying quickly when the 50-passenger jet owned by Champion Air, a charter service owned by the Earnhardt family, touched down and taxied to its large hangar.

Spears, a 21-year-veteran of the department, was pushing the remnants of slush and ice off the taxiway Monday afternoon. He’d put in a total of 31 hours of work over the past few days, including the weekend, when he stopped to ask Ferguson for a new battery for his radio.

“I’ve done it for so many years, it doesn’t bother me,” Spears explained.

Keeping ice and snow off the runway can be more challenging than maintaining public roads in similar conditions. The runways cannot be treated with salt because it corrodes the aluminum on the aircraft.

“There are other chemicals you can use, but they can be very expensive,” Ferguson said. “We’d much rather plow it and let the sun do the work.”

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