For seven years, I handled the snow removal for the airport located in Bardstown, KY. It is a small airport that operates mostly during the day. The runway is about 4000 feet long and capable of landing a DC-10. On average, we would receive 1-3" snowfalls that would take 8-10 hours to clear from the runway and tarmac areas. But this particular winter had Bardstown right in the crosshairs of several major events.
We had a storm that was due to hit the Louisville, KY area around midnight this particular evening, and the forecast for Bardstown was to only catch the tail end with some minor sleet and maybe an inch or two of snow. Well, in this business, you learn real fast not to always trust the news channels for your winter weather!
The system dropped a little to the south, putting Bardstown in sight to receive the largest snowfall we had seen in many years! The snow started coming in at 1-3" per hour, and only using a 2003 Ford F-250 with a WESTERN 7.5' PRO PLOW, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I quickly lost sight of the sides of the runway and was forced to call the Director of the Bardstown Airport to see if the runway light could be turned on remotely.
Over the phone, he walked me through entering one of the hangers to find a beautiful 8 person jet sitting there. Once inside the jet, he advised me how to turn on the power and activate the runway lights so that I could see the sides of the runway. I had to return to the jet every 15 minutes to reactivate the lights until I had enough cleared to see what I was doing and where I was. For hours throughout the night, I drove as fast as the plow would allow to keep enough area cleared through the blizzard-like conditions.
With 18" on the ground and 12 hours in, I had just enough area cleared to barely fit a plane on the runway. Snow banks on the sides of the runway measured 3-5' tall. Suddenly, around noon, as we were continuing to work on widening the runway surface area, I look from one end of the runway and asked my employee, "Do you see a plane at the other end of this runway"?
He replied, "I really can't tell from this distance!"
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me until the plane turned on its lights! I stopped the truck immediately and called the Director. He advised that the very jet that I had been in that night was waiting on me to get out of the way so it could take off. I quickly raced to the other end where I had to break through a snow bank to get around behind the jet because there wasn't enough room for me and him both on that runway!
As soon as I got around behind the jet, I found myself staring at 2 Rolls Royce Engines capable of 5000 ft/lbs. of thrust each! Before I could clear the rear of the jet, the pilot went full throttle, sending a horrific wind through my truck! The F-250 with the plow went up on the 2 right side wheels for a split second. Before I could have a chance to comprehend what was happening, it was over and the jet was in the air.
I pulled over to the hanger where the jet had been stored and the maintenance man, shaking his head as I pulled up, said "Yeah, that pilot is just a little anxious."
I was furious and began yelling and asking why was he in such a hurry that he couldn't wait for me to clear the area.
He replied, "Well, if you had his boss you would understand. His boss called him 20 minutes ago and told him that if his plane wasn't in Georgetown to pick him up after the game that he was fired!"
So, you know I had to ask! "Who is his boss?"
He replied "Rick Pitino."
Rick Pitino is the head coach for the Louisville Cardinals and was in Georgetown that day for a game. He wanted to go to Florida as soon as the game ended to do some scouting.
Though I am mostly a University of Kentucky fan, I did grow up in Louisville. I still wonder about that night and if I made a contribution to the future of The Louisville Cardinals' basketball program...