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DFW Airport prepares for winter storms

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Winter is coming and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, is getting its snow blowers and de-icing equipment ready.

And after a weekend of chilly, wet weather, the airport is already thinking about the 2016 winter as well. On Tuesday, the airport board’s operations committee approved $26 million to buy 46 more pieces of snow- and ice-removal equipment.

The equipment, including eight snow broom trucks, six multihog machines and four icebreaker attachments, won’t be delivered until late next year. But when it arrives, the airport will be able to simultaneously clear runways on both the east side and west side of the airport.

“We will be able to provide more runway capacity so airlines can operate more of their schedule under moderate freezing conditions,” said Jim Crites, DFW Airport’s executive vice president for operations. With the new equipment next year, the airport will double the amount of snow- and ice-removal equipment it has.

Last winter, major storms in February and March cost the airport $1.9 million in lost revenues as airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights. During a two-hour period on March 5, all of the runways at DFW were shut down as crews could not keep them clear of snow and ice.

Two snow blowers that failed during the storms were replaced earlier this year. The airport has also purchased a third snow blower to make sure runways can stay clear this winter, Crites said.

“I’m thinking we’re going to have at least two major events,” Crites said. “What we expect from the El Niño effect is a wetter winter, but hopefully temperatures will stay a little bit above normal to make it more of a cold rain.”

American Airlines also bought 78 new de-icing trucks for DFW Airport and has already used several on some cooler mornings.

“This new equipment will mean approximately a 38 percent reduction in the time it takes to spray an aircraft with de-icing fluid — meaning less time for our customers to wait for the aircraft to be de-iced,” said American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. And the new trucks use less glycol as the trucks use forced air to spread the glycol, she said.

The airport and American will also coordinate more closely during winter weather events by placing staff in each other’s operations centers. And the airport may consider spending additional funds on facilities to store and maintain its equipment as well as new storage facilities for de-icing fluid.

“We want to consider this now a winter weather airport,” Crites said. “Even when you have a large event, [the new equipment] will allow us to get the airport back up and running more quickly.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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