On Thursday, Feb. 13, what was originally predicted to be a minor weather event turned into a major storm as nearly a foot of snow blanketed the region. Schools and businesses closed their doors and roads were treacherous. However, for many passengers traveling in and out of State College by air, the University Park Airport remained open keeping customers on the go.
“Our priority is always to keep the airport open,” said Bryan Rodgers, director, University Park Airport. “We have a dedicated crew who do a great job while working a lot of long hours.”
Any snowfall can prove to be challenging for an airport of any size due to the sheer volume of the area that needs to be cleared. University Park Airport’s runway is 6,701 feet in length and 150 feet wide. There are also taxiways and the airport apron that also must be kept clear and passable. According to Rodgers, that means upwards of 35-40 miles of pavement that must be maintained. Crews worked nonstop with Oshkosh brooms, high-speed plows and snow blowers from 5 a.m. on to keep the airport open.
Cleaning up snow is just one of many tasks airport attendants and maintenance must tackle. Planes must be fueled, and during snowstorms they must also be de-iced. Inside the terminal is also quite busy. The phone rings constantly with front desk staff fielding questions from travelers checking on the airport and their flight status.
With the exception of canceled flights to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, which were also hit hard with snow and ice, flights to Detroit and Chicago continued as scheduled. In addition, flights by general aviation aircraft, corporate aircraft and FedEx planes maintained their scheduled departures and arrivals.
When the sun is shining, the airport crew is focused on post-storm cleanup. Piles of snow will be knocked down to prevent interference with aircraft; signs and lights will be cleared, and general cleanup will continue.
“The airport attendants, airfield maintenance and others did an outstanding job,” said Rodgers. “We don’t have a lot of people on staff, but they did a great job keeping the airport open not only for Penn State but for the community.”