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Hill AFB has to keep snow in mind during planning

Hill AFB has to keep snow in mind during planning



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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) -- Snow doesn't just affect passenger travel on Utah's roadways and in the air.

It can make work difficult for the pilots at Hill Air Force Base, too. The base says it loses about 7 percent of scheduled flying days each year because of weather, or about 17 of 232 scheduled flight days.

"When we schedule sorties for the year, we might look at December historically and say, 'OK, over the past six years, we've lost this number of flying days on average,"' said Lt. Col. Craig Hollis, 388th Operations Support Squadron commander at the base. "Then we keep that in mind when we plan things. But really, in the big scheme of things, 17 days a year isn't that big of a deal."

Hollis said most of the flying days are lost during the height of winter -- December, January and February -- but cancellations have been made as early as October and sometimes as late as March or April.

The military has contingency plans, Hollis said.

"A lot of times, if we're unable to do our primary mission, we'll do an alternate one," he said.

Hollis said pilots will fly in bad weather from time to time to prepare for situations when the weather is bad and they don't have a choice whether to ground the mission.

"Quite honestly, it can be dangerous," Hollis said. "And that's why we try to keep our skills proficient. Since man began flying, he's always had to deal with weather. It's one of those things that you are always trying to get better at."

Flying in bad weather means having a runway clear of snow and ice, and that job falls on Lt. Col. Matt Dana, 75th Operations Support Squadron commander.

"Basically, when it starts snowing, we have guys out there moving," Dana said. "But it's also a function of how much snow, how fast it's falling and what kind of flight operations are scheduled."

Dana said it's different than preparing streets for auto traffic. Hill's snow removal teams use only plows, sweepers, blowers and a de-icing fluid on the airfield.

"We aren't going to drop sand out there because the jets will suck it right up," Dana said

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Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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