Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2017 issue
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, MINN. – Some paint jobs are so big they seemingly never end. At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), the paint shop is responsible for keeping a clean coat on thousands of square feet of indoor wall space, the striping of 23,667 parking spots, lane markings on roadways controlled by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and, of course, all of the airfield pavement. And by the time the paint shop finishes the outdoor tasks – particularly the striping of parking spots and the airfield markings – another year passes quickly and it’s time to put on a fresh coat.
Along the way, the paint shop and its 10-person crew works to keep its operation as sustainable and environmentally responsible as possible. That includes a continuing emphasis on using water-based paint over oil, and a reclamation process for solvents used in the painting process.
The Federal Aviation Administration inspects the entire airfield each year, and the markings have to be clean and clear.
Recently, MAC paint crews have been putting down a new coat on the airfield deicing pads – work that can be done during the daytime in the summer. All the runways and many of the taxiways involve night painting, when air traffic is minimal.
In an average year, the paint shop orders about 18,000 gallons of paint. And when they put down a new traffic stripe, how do the painters keep the line straight? The paint-striping truck used on the airfield has an aiming pointer – essentially a pipe attached to the vehicle near the paint guns on the front of the truck. Once the paint gun is lined up on a runway stripe, the driver will visually line up the pointer on the middle seam of a runway’s concrete. Using that as a guide, the rig moves slowly forward and the line is applied accurately. A new paint-striping truck recently acquired comes with a laser pointer.
The paint shop is also responsible for many of the signs seen around the airport, including road signs on interior roads, parking signs and some digital prints used in the terminal buildings.