Snow removal crews at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee haven't slept much in the past two weeks.
Several storms have dumped snow on the base housing the giant U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft. Phoenix Management Inc. has the contract to keep the runways and the aircraft parking areas clear of snow.
Their mission involves much more than pushing snow into piles. Art Herring, supervisor of roads and grounds, said they were required to keep the flight area cleared down to bare pavement. Crews were pushing snow into rows Monday, where massive snow blowers then transferred the snow into a line of waiting dump trucks. Those dump trucks then took the snow to another part of the airfield where the snow was dumped. More snow blowers blew the snow into a field.
Because the C-5 aircraft are so large, no snow is allowed to be piled more than 3 feet high anywhere on the airfield.
Special ice melting chemicals were also being employed because rock salt is corrosive to the aircraft.
A crew of more than 30 has been working nearly non-stop for weeks, putting in several 19-hour days. Several workers have put in close to 100 hours of overtime in the past two weeks.
With more snow in the forecast, Herring said he expected they would be cleaning up for another week.
Once snow removal was complete on the airfield, Herring said his crews would be clearing snow from the rest of the base.
Real Property Maintenance Manager Dan Van Dalsen said his crew works very hard because they understand the mission. He said PMI hires a lot of former military members. Many of them, including himself, are former Air Force veterans.
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