The Public Works Department of Snohomish County, Wash., takes great pride in maintaining one of the most unique aviation operations in the nation. Paine Field Airport is home to more than 650 aircraft and the Boeing manufacturing plant. William Penor, director of maintenance, compares Paine Field to a small city. It is its own enterprise operation, generating its own funds. The airport currently operates on a $19 million budget for all departments, including maintenance.

“We have our own internal program for maintaining the airport due to unique rules and regulations under the FAA 139 program,” says Penor.

Eighteen full-time employees maintain the airport, along with the county’s sanitary systems, stormwater conveyance, environmental inspections, roads, grounds, wildlife, and snow and ice control.

Keeping the runways safe is a priority. Foreign object debris (FOD) control is one of the most imperative components in maintaining the airport. Paine Field consists of three runways that have been crafted with grooved asphalt and concrete. Each runway is swept and inspected twice a day, five days a week with Elgin Crosswind Sweepers, which blow debris to the sides of runways and taxiways. An undercarriage vacuum then disposes of all leftover debris.

“There is a goal of having a runway last at least 20 years with constant inspection and maintenance,” says Penor.

The Boeing manufacturing plant at the airport is used for 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft. Initial flight tests and deliveries of the new 787 Dreamliners and 747-8 Intercontinental took place at Paine Field. The Future of Flight Aviation Center and the Boeing tour attract several tourists to this unique facility. Both generated more than $30 million in donations for exhibits and education. Paine Field and the Boeing Co. have a superb working relationship. The nearby Boeing factory operates on an agreement stating any funds generated will help support FOD control, along with snow and ice programs.

“Paine Field is known in the industry for innovation and we are always looking for new ways to perfect the process,” says Penor.

So what’s next for Paine Field? Penor anticipates next summer’s construction season will include upgrading lighting for runways and taxiways. The airport plans to convert to LED fixtures to save energy and improve visibility.

With a no fail objective, Paine Field holds its department and employees to the highest standard. "The airport’s operations contribute more than $19 billion to the U.S. economy annually," says Penor. "It’s a huge, but rewarding endeavor to maintain the utmost quality and professionalism."

Check out a video of the FOD control in action.