Aug 28, 2019

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s (MSP) field maintenance crew received all the glory last winter when they worked around the clock to keep the airport’s runways clear during an epic winter of snow and ice.

Soon after the snow disappears, however, those same maintenance workers begin tackling a long list of fair-weather tasks.

“Joint sealing, concrete repairs, lawn mowing, fence repair – we do that all and more,” says Charlie Beuning, an assistant manager in the airport’s Field Maintenance division. “We’re certainly not sitting around waiting for the next snowstorm to blow in from Canada.”

Summer work doesn’t draw as much attention, but MSP’s 2,930-acre campus includes square miles of both grass and concrete. And just like the work on Twin Cities’ highways, repairs to the paved surfaces are a summer-time priority.

“We do surface repairs of roads, taxiways and runways,” Beuning said.  “In the gate areas, near the terminals, we do small concrete repairs. In fact, we do so much of that we brought in fish houses early in the season and put heaters in them so we could get it above 40 degrees for the concrete work.”

Much of the repair work along the miles of roads at MSP gets contracted out, but crews from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) do some of it as well.

Another reason summer work stays under-the-radar is the heavy construction work is completed mostly at night when there are fewer aircraft using the airfield.

Each night, crews perform cleaning work around the entire airport. Sidewalks are blown clean in front of the terminals, power washing is sometimes in the mix, and MSP’s own garbage truck collects waste from around the campus. Also key to the operations -- the MAC’s mechanics, who keep all of the equipment running year-round.

On the runways, crews work practically every night to remove built-up rubber left by airplane tires. Leaving it there would diminish the amount of friction needed for airplanes to land at MSP.

The maintenance crews also maintain the airport’s parking ramps, which can accommodate up to 23,650 vehicles. When the Silver Ramp opens in 2020, that total will be closer to 29,000.

For those already fretting about a return to winter weather, it’s still a ways off. MSP’s average low temperature doesn’t dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit until Oct. 16. And the median date of the Twin Cities’ first 1-inch snowfall is Nov. 16.