Winter snow can make airline operations difficult, especially at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BNIA) where weather can change quickly.
Keeping the runways, taxiways and plane/cargo areas clear of snow is the responsibility of a small army of workers and equipment who race into action whenever the flakes fall.
This year, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) is using a new tool in its fight against winter weather.
A clean-diesel snow melter is now on the job. It cost $605,000 with federal funding helping pay the bill.
The snow melter can turn 135 tons of snow into liquid every hour using two large burners. Snow is dropped by front loader into the machine with melted snow draining from the bottom.
Because snow around airliners contains deicing chemicals that spill off of aircraft, the melted snow is captured and treated to remove deicing chemicals to make it environmentally safe.
The new machine's use will allow NFTA airfield crews to melt snow on the spot without having to bring in trucks to haul it away.
According to Airfield Superintendent Joseph Guarino, the new equipment will change the "dynamics" of airport snow removal by speeding up the process. In addition, fewer vehicles in use around the plane and cargo area will mean less congestion and higher safety. It is also expected that it will improve airport operations in snow conditions.
Guarino said he would like to get two more snow melters in the future.
The Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BNIA) was ranked by J.D. Power in 2018 as the medium airport with the most customer satisfaction in the U.S. BNIA has also won awards for its snow clearing efforts.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly got a special behind the scenes look at the snow melting machine and talked with Joe Guarino about the dedication to keeping runways open in snowy weather.