New snowblower takes to airport runway

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2005 has turned out to be a good year for Mel Baker's luck to kick in.

Baker, manager of the Steamboat Springs Airport, drew the highest card in a drawing last summer for a used snowblower from Denver International Air--port.

There was no lack of snow Friday as airport crews put the 400-horsepower machine to the test.

"It's a purpose-built airport runway snowblower," Baker said.

Baker put the local airport on the list for one of several snowblowers being replaced at DIA. The state offered the snowblowers to interested Colorado airports for $15,000 each.

New, the snowblowers cost between $250,000 and $400,000, Baker said.

Enough airports were interested that they drew playing cards for each machine.

Baker drew the highest card: the 10 of diamonds.

"I was very lucky that everyone drew lower cards," Baker said. "It's the only thing I've won in my life."

In addition, the state granted the airport $7,500 to help pay for the snowblower.

The machine will move about 5,000 tons of snow an hour and back up a "much smaller" snowblower.

The Federal Av----iation Admin--istration requires that runways not have snow banks and that snow be removed to a safety area at least 150 feet from the runway's center line, Baker said.

Part of the snowblower had to be disassembled for delivery to the airport in November.

"It barely fits in our maintenance facility," he said.

Baker doesn't know how much the snowblower, built in 1986, is worth, but he's sure it's more than what the airport paid.

"The steel alone is worth more than that," he said.

The airport planned to replace its small snowblower in 2007. The arrival of the big machine will free up FAA entitlement funds for capital projects, Baker said.

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