Keeping runways snow-free at Sawyer International Airport

With about 84,000 passengers traveling through Sawyer International Airport each year, keeping the runways free and clear is a daily task.

Fifteen pieces of heavy-duty equipment with 20-foot-wide blades assist workers in keeping runways open for incoming planes. Despite rising snow totals, Sawyer has seen a recent spike in service while maintaining a 40% market share of travel in the U.P. Airport officials say while this time of year is challenging, they don’t let heavy snowfall interrupt maintaining their daily operations.

“On a day like today, we never stop; we plow all day long,” airport manager Duane DuRay said. “As the conditions improve, we do a lot of cleanup, but as long as it’s snowing and the snow is accumulating, we continue plowing because aircrafts are much different from automobiles. You don’t usually drive your automobile at 130 miles per hour.”

Clean runways are also crucial as the airport is responsible for nearly half of the cargo going in and out of the Upper Peninsula. Officials say they don’t plan on the airport closing anytime soon due to conditions that are under their control.