By Mary McGuire


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Scooting alongside each other in perfect formation, MSP Airport plow operators make it all look easy. The delicate runway dance may seem effortless, but behind the brooms and the blowers, there’s some not-so-secret guidelines directing it all.

The airport’s Winter Ops Playbook contains plays of sorts that MSP plows run during winter storms.

They are all named after Minnesota sports teams, and the goal is not points or a touchdown. It’s minimizing runway closure times.

“We call out a certain play whether it’s a five-minute closure, a 15-minute closure or a half-hour closures. These closures can be shorter or longer depending on what we need to take care of on that airfield,” said Assistant Airfield Maintenance Manager Charlie Beuning.

Crews study and practice the playbook during the sunny off-season.

(credit: CBS)

“We come in. We watch film. We chalk talk it out and we will go out there and do it again until we can execute that play with confidence,” Beuning said.

When the flakes starts flying, it’s “snow” time for the 100-plus person crew. A perennial slam dunk is the Snow Plow Conga Line, the most effective way to clear taxiways without leaving behind any lines.

All that snow has to go somewhere, and most of it is pushed off into the grass islands in between runways.

“Where the problem lies is … some of these wingtips are getting close to these snow piles,” Beuning said.

During the evening hours, crews have to load it all into trucks and haul it away before it starts falling again.

We aren’t out of the winter woods just yet, so MSP officials advise giving yourself plenty of time to get to the airport if you do have a flight when it is snowing. They also suggest checking your flight’s status with your airline before getting to the airport in case there are any delays.

Mary McGuire

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