By Raetta Holdman

DENVER (CBS) – In the midst of near record heat Friday, the man in charge of clearing off runways at Denver International Airport showed off his gear.

Ron Charles is the director of field maintenance for DIA. That means he’s behind the plan to get snow off runways and keep planes moving.

ron charles dia field maintenance director DIA Runway Chief Gets Ready For Snowy Months: Theres No Dilly Dallying

DIA Field Maintenance Director Ron Charles (credit: CBS)

“Long and short, the plan is to ensure we get in and on a runway, clear it and be off that runway within 15 minutes,” he explained.

And to do that, the crews have dozens of specialized pieces of equipment to make that happen.

That includes one machine that is 10 feet tall and 72 feet long with a 24 foot blade and a 24 foot broom to clear the snow.

dia snow equipment1 DIA Runway Chief Gets Ready For Snowy Months: Theres No Dilly Dallying

(credit: CBS)

But Charles said, it’s about more than just equipment.

“We separate the crews from the east and the west side. We alternate cleaning and closing one runway on the east, once it’s open, we open one of the two runways on the west and do the cleaning action there.

“We coordinate with the FAA and airport operations to close those runways when the arrivals are coming in so we can safely get on there without any one of them landing at the same time,” Charles said. “We clear that runway within the 15 minutes and get off.”

dia snow equipment2 DIA Runway Chief Gets Ready For Snowy Months: Theres No Dilly Dallying

(credit: CBS)

That means in addition to having the right equipment, workers have to have the right training. It’s something they focus on every day. That’s where they have to be aware of more than just snow.

“Visibility is the primary,” Charles said. “If we have winds of 25 miles and up, visibility goes down to zero, that can shut us down until we have the visibility to get on the runways safely. Safety is our primary focus not only for the aircraft taking off but for our crews out there.”

But keeping DIA up and running through all conditions is a point of pride for that maintenance team.

“It’s fairly intense. We know the criticality of being on and off those runways, that there are a lot of flights trying to land at the same time. There’s no dilly-dallying out there.”

Raetta Holdman is a veteran newscast producer. She’s been with CBS4 for more than 25 years, coordinating events — large and small — from the control room. Contact her by clicking here.


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