A crew of more than two dozen worked to keep runway 2/20 clear at Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield Wednesday.
At about 3 a.m. the first shift showed up to begin removal of snow from the 7,000-foot runway used by the F-15 fighter jets of the 104th Fighter Wing.
Training flights were canceled Wednesday because of the snow, but the alert aircraft still have to be able to launch within minutes. Crews concentrate their efforts on the runway and in front of the hangars, making endless loops until the snow stops. They work 12-hour, overlapping shifts for as long as the snow flies and until the runway is completely clear.
Pilots not on alert status concentrate on simulators and classroom training while maintenance crews take advantage of the downtime to work on aircraft.
Civil engineers at the base have a fleet of massive snow moving equipment at their disposal to keep the pavement clear. Huge diesel trucks push 20-foot plows, 18-foot brooms or 6-foot blowers.
Once snow or ice starts to taper and crews have a handle on the runways, other areas of the base are cleared.
"We cannot stop because the mission will fail and this is a no fail mission," said facility manager Chief Master Sgt. Todd Fappiano.
The runway is shared with Westfield-Barnes Municipal Airport. Crews have to choreograph movements of the large equipment on and off an active runway.
Workers said they enjoy what they do, and Highway Maintenance Foreman Chris Gouin said the people he works with makes the job fun.
Once the cleanup is complete, the equipment goes in the shop for repairs and maintenance in preparation for the next snowfall.
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