This story originally was published in June 2018.
“You can’t stop.”
That’s how Frank Scalamogna, a Field Maintenance Supervisor, describes the year-round, daily operation that is groundskeeping at Pittsburgh International Airport.
A team comprised of six to seven landscapers works daily to maintain nearly 100 acres surrounding the airport. Through all seasons, crews are needed for jobs ranging from leaf and snow removal to gardening and grass cutting in the spring and summer.
“We’re basically the first and last impression of the airport,” said landscaper Dan Tavormina.
With an estimated 25,000 people flying in and out of PIT each day, maintaining the appearance of the airport is an important aspect of efficient operations and customer service.
One of the more intricate tasks comes in preparation for the summer months, as landscapers plant around 4,000 flowers in the spring. To ensure the plants will flourish, crews test the pH of the soil, fertilize and spread mulch to prepare the ground. Each flowerbed contains a wide variety of plants, including petunias, zinnias, coxcomb and sage, among others.
Following the roughly four-week process of planting, landscapers spend the remaining summer months cutting grass, watering flower beds, pruning and tending to trees and plants, even in 90-degree heat waves.
“There are no easy days,” said James Bainbridge of the airport landscaping team when asked about working through the extreme heat, cold and precipitation experienced in Pittsburgh.
Despite the often-strenuous nature of landscaping, crews still enjoy the opportunity to work outside and take special pride in the work they do.
“I try to do the best I know how to improve something and make it look nice for everyone — that’s me,” said Scalamogna, who has worked in landscaping at the airport for more than 30 years.
In the fall, the team is responsible for raking leaves and preparing for winter operations, and with over 2,000 trees planted on airport property, leaf removal in the fall becomes a daily responsibility.
In addition to maintaining the airport through landscaping efforts, the Field Maintenance department employs 100 full-time staff, and includes laborers, mechanics, heavy equipment operators and heavy equipment mechanics.
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