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Snow barn clears way for year-round readiness

Senior Airman Nick Lockhart, 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron heavy equipment operator, drives a snow removal machine during rubber removal on the flightline at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 3, 2020. The rubber removal process used over nine vehicles collectively, and aided in heavy equipment operating training for Airmen new to base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

Senior Airman Nick Lockhart, 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron heavy equipment operator, drives a snow removal machine during rubber removal on the flightline at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 3, 2020. The rubber removal process used over nine vehicles collectively, and aided in heavy equipment operating training for Airmen new to base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

A 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron Airmen operates a de-icing vehicle, spraying water during flightline rubber removal at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 3, 2020. Team Fairchild Airmen removed rubber from the flightline spanning over 30,000 miles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

A 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron Airmen operates a de-icing vehicle, spraying water during flightline rubber removal at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 3, 2020. Team Fairchild Airmen removed rubber from the flightline spanning over 30,000 miles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

A 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron Airman operates heavy snow removal equipment to scrub the flightline as part of flightline rubber removal at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct, 3, 2020. 92nd CES Airmen train on the flightline using the snow removal equipment during rubber removal to prepare for upcoming winter weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)_

A 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron Airman operates heavy snow removal equipment to scrub the flightline as part of flightline rubber removal at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct, 3, 2020. 92nd CES Airmen train on the flightline using the snow removal equipment during rubber removal to prepare for upcoming winter weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)_

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

The 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron’s snow barn is a widely used resource on Team Fairchild during the winter, but during the spring, they continue in full action to ensure the safety of Airmen and their families on base.

The snow barn takes part in several different construction projects to prepare for the winter season, which includes road maintenance, flightline safety for aircraft, as well as securing perimeter fences around base.

“We do pavement maintenance which is fixing all of the concrete and asphalt on base, including the airfield, and all of the other pavement on base,” said James Prather, 92nd CES pavement equipment operator. “We also do security fencing, we secure all of the fencing on base, all the traffic signs and heavy equipment operations like excavators.”

In addition to their long list of tasks, the snow barn also removes rubber from the flightline annually to ensure the safety of Airmen and aircraft on base.

“Rubber removal happens once a year and typically happens in the fall,” said Ted Strom, 92nd CES pavement equipment operator. “We try to get the rubber off before it reaches freezing temperatures because it makes the rubber more slippery when the jets are trying to land.”

Rubber removal is a timely but lengthy process, spanning up to tens of thousands of square miles throughout the flightline, and involves operating the same heavy equipment used during snow storms.

“This year are doing 30,000 feet of the flightline,” Prather said. “We go out there and spray an environmentally friendly chemical down to soften and break up the rubber on the area, let it sit for a few hours and then scrape it up using the snow removal machines. Once it starts to break the rubber bonds, then the fire department helps us by spraying water to rinse off the sides of the runway.”

The rubber removal involved eight scrubbing trucks, two de-icing machines and costs around $35,000 in comparison to the $100,000 alternative.

“Doing rubber removal allows for the aircraft to land safely and efficiently,” Strom said. “It’s important that we do rubber removal because when winter comes, the flightline becomes more slippery and makes it extremely difficult for the aircraft to land, stop safely and keep the mission going.”

Members from the snow barn are ensuring the safety Team Fairchild year round whether that be through plowing snow and de-icing the ground, or removing rubber from the run way to ensure that Fairchild KC-135 Stratotankers are landing smoothly and safely.