Indianapolis snow plow drivers learn how to keep airport runways safe before winter arrives

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 6, 2014) -- It is a job that is tough, and carries a lot of responsibility.

It's the work of plowing snow from the runways at the Indianapolis International Airport. Those drivers are being trained on how to do it properly, so they can keep the airport open during a snow storm.

The training class for the drivers is not something easy, and it's not just as easy as putting a plow on a truck and pushing the snow out of the way. There is a lot that goes in to it, and it's exciting and difficult for those who are new drivers like Nicholas Stewart.

"There's been a significant amount of snow training time," Stewart said.

An electrician by trade, Stewart is trading the wire cutters for a huge shovel and blade to cut through the snow on the runways this winter. It's a job he's excited to be doing, but knows it comes with a lot of responsibility.

"Because ultimately we're part of this crew that's going to get the passengers in and out safely," he said.

Stewart is training with the "B" shift of the Indianapolis International Snow Team. It's a name they take seriously and is embroidered on their coats. There is classroom time where they learn how to do the job that's more than just plowing snow.

"They have to work in formations, different formations, they have to work on hot runways which means we're in and out with aircraft taxiing and landing. Everyone has to have a headset on listening to two types of radios going on," said Michael Medvescek, Senior Director of Airport Operations.

There's even more.

"Then they start breaking out in to, okay well now we need to worry how we're going to approach a snow storm like this. If the wind is blowing out of the northeast versus the southwest, how we're gonna be able to follow the tower," Stewart said.

In 2013, the airport purchased almost a dozen huge snow removal machines just before the polar vortex. They are so big they cut down snow removal time.

"We can clear a runway and both parallel taxiways in about 15 or 20 minutes depending on how heavy the snow is," said A.J. Babkowski, a driver for 16 years.

They plow, sweep and blow simultaneously. Big machines, for a big job of protecting everyone.

"That's our priority. We do everything humanly possible to keep it as safe as possible, but we still need to get the aircraft in and out," Medvescek said.

Whether the drivers are veteran, or new, the Federal Aviation Administration requires the training every year.

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