Heavy snow resulted in a 50-hour closure of the airport back in January.

Big Bear City, CA — Extreme snowfall over the past two years, particularly in January, has made for daunting snowplowing for the staff of the Big Bear City Airport, which must maintain a snow-free runway. During an average winter, airport maintenance staff, namely Tom Hoover and Ryan Goss, use two trucks to plow roughly 500-600 miles each, removing snow from the just-over-one-mile-long runway. However, this year has amounted to over 1,200 miles per truck and when snow levels were such that it couldn’t all be cleared, the airport was closed for 50 hours, which also resulted in a loss of revenue for the Big Bear Airport District. For the last two years, the airport has had to rent additional snow removal equipment to keep up, while also spending more on overtime costs to staff. To alleviate these ongoing expenses, while also keeping up with plowing demands, the Board of Directors of the Airport District approved the purchase of new equipment during their regular monthly meeting on March 3. Using roughly $369,000 in LAIF funds, the airport district is buying a CAT 950 loader and an RPM 220 snow blower (similar to the one just purchased by the City of Big Bear Lake). Per Airport General Manager Pete Gwaltney, who has also assisted in snowplowing efforts, should the new equipment last at least 20 years, the annual cost would be just over $18,000—a cost savings to the district as they will not need to rent additional equipment at $16,000 per year (as has been the case for this season), and overtime costs should also be eliminated given the increased efficiency of the loader, which replaces a 23-year-old model. The Airport District projects that, with the addition of their new loader and snow blower, there will be safety benefits to aircraft and clearing the full width of the runway should take two hours instead of two days.

Airport staffers Ryan Goss and Tom Hoover, with help from new GM Pete Gwaltney, have plowed nearly 2,500 miles on the airport runway this season--and the runway is just over a mile long. The just-purchased CAT should help to make the snow plowing a two-hour, rather than two-day, project.