Airports Prepare for Winter Storm

Feb 11, 2014

Sandy Hausman reports.

Airports around the Commonwealth are preparing for snow and pledging to keep their runways clean, but flights are already being canceled for reasons beyond control.

Charlottesville’s airport sees 40-50 flights a day, and spokesman Jason Burch says it’s no problem to keep the runway open.  A team of about 30 people has been planning for winter weather since July.

“As soon as we start to see a forecast with a lot of accumulation, we’ll begin to activate the snow team.  We’ve got a lot of equipment out here to make sure that runway and taxiway stay open.”

Nor will ice be a problem.

“The airlines are responsible for their aircraft. And they have plenty of de-icer fluide for that, and we also have it.”

Burch says it shouldn’t be necessary to de-ice the runway, since the airport has equipment with brushes to keep the surface super clean.  Nevertheless, airport maintenance crews will test from time to time>

“We have staff here that are trained to do what’s called a friction test.  They’ll go out in their equipment and basically get up to about 40 miles per hour and then lay down on the brakes to test the friction on the runway, which would be similar to that of an aircraft, and then based on those numbers we’ll decide whether to use liquid de-icer or not.”

But all this effort may be for naught.  Burch says it’s likely Virginia travelers will find their flights being canceled.

“It’s where you’re going from there, and it’s where you’re trying to get to, and it’s also those planes that may be on a route that there’s three or four different stops before it gets to Charlottesville, and a couple of those airports could be under a heavy storm.  For example, Atlanta.   They’re not used to dealing with a lot of snow, and so we’re already seeing cancelations on some of our Atlanta flights because of what’s happening in Atlanta, not in Charlottesville.”

He advises travelers to get on the phone or visit airline websites, since many will allow you to change travel plans before or after major storms at no charge.