Airfield Maintenance Top Priority At Ford

October 30, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Each day the staff of Gerald R. Ford International’s Facilities Management Department is responsible for maintaining everything situated on the nearly 3,200-acre parcel that constitutes the airport — the terminal building, airfield, parking areas and grounds.

Facilities Director Thomas Ecklund said his department also has a few minor maintenance responsibilities for some of the 40 buildings located on the property if there’s a specific maintenance requirement stated in the lease agreement.

During the summer months there are 2,000 acres of grass to be mowed. In an average winter, there’s close to 84 million cubic feet of snow that has to be cleared from the airfield. The airport’s three runways — the main east/west runway, the parallel east/west runway and the north/south runway — and the tarmac add up to more than 1.5 million square yards of airfield pavement that Ecklund’s department has to maintain.

“That pavement is thick enough that it’s the equivalent of about a two-lane concrete highway from here to the MackinacBridge,” Ecklund said out. “The pavement on the airfield is probably our primary concern, and we watch that very closely. We work very closely with our operations staff. Operation supervisors are on site 24/7. If they see something that needs repair, they can go ahead and get it in the work order system and we can get it to our crews either that day or the next day.”

The Facilities Management Department has three divisions and a total of 27 on staff; three people are in engineering, seven are in building maintenance and 17 are in field maintenance. Ecklund also hires seasonal help, a couple of people in the summertime and seven people in the wintertime. The department has about 80 pieces of equipment, including plows, backhoes, blowers and some highly specialized snow control equipment for the airfield.

The airport’s building maintenance staff operates in two shifts, the second of which runs from to . A lot of the work on the second shift involves maintenance of the airfield lighting system, Ecklund noted. Starting around the first of November each year, the field staff is divided into two shifts, as well, in order to keep on top of snow removal. Although the department doesn’t provide staff on site around the clock, it does have crews on call around the clock, Ecklund said.

The department contracts out for landscaping services, janitorial services, elevator maintenance and inspection, for maintenance of all the overhead doors on the field maintenance facility, the fire station and the terminal, and for snow plowing of all entry roads and surface parking lots.

“We do a lot of contracting for services because we find it’s more efficient to do that than hire a full-time staff,” Ecklund said.

The passenger terminal building is just over 240,850 square feet and houses two concourses and 12 gates. An average of 300 daily takeoffs and landings cater to the traveling needs of the nearly 6,000 passengers who frequent the airport on any given day.

Ecklund said his staff takes a lot of pride in the condition of the terminal. His building maintenance staff takes care of lights, touches up paint, and does carpet, flooring and window repairs, while the janitorial staff is responsible for all the cleaning activities and trash removal within the terminal. For the most part, tenants of the building — the airlines, rental car companies, retail and concession businesses — maintain their own spaces.

A lot of engineering and planning at the airport is coordinated through the Facilities Management Department, Ecklund said.

“We contract most of that, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not actively involved,” he explained. “We have an on-call engineer and an on-call architect that we can rely on for small projects that require a quick turnaround. But for anything of size, we’ll issue project qualifications and allow architects and engineers to submit their qualifications to us.”    

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