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Flying High in the Dallas Sky

Author: Jennifer Taylor
Published: May 3rd, 2013

Nearly 50 million people fly in and out of DFW Airport on American Airlines in a single year. Add to that, their luggage, carry-ons, and other cargo and it makes for a very busy place. Flagship Sweeping has the daunting task of keeping one of America’s busiest airports clean and free of debris that can easily ground a plane.

“We maintain all areas inside and outside where American leases at DFW,” says Wade Kasper, regional operations manager at Flagship. “We sweep Terminals A, B, and C twice daily as well as Hangars 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, meticulously—cleaning down to the last pebble for any foreign objects. There’s a lot of trash that gets generated—luggage breaks open, papers go flying, zippers fall off on the tarmac. We have to get all of that cleaned up to make sure the tarmac is safe and the planes don’t encounter any delays due to debris. In addition to that, we also clean up spills and take care of the janitorial needs inside the terminals. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—it never stops and never shuts down.”

With their Texas office based in Grapevine, they have to keep equipment and personnel at DFW at all times. “We have 15 minutes to respond to an emergency after the call comes in,” says Kasper. “If there is a spill behind an aircraft, they aren’t going to move the aircraft. Every minute that a plane is delayed on the runway costs American Airlines money—money spent on fuel, potentially reimbursing passengers connecting flights, etc.”

Because of the tight schedules and structured chaos at an airport, Flagship doesn’t have the luxury of keeping a small fleet.

Their large fleet of vehicles is one of the reasons they can compete for large airports. They have 12 sweepers dedicated just to DFW. “If back up unit #2 breaks down, then we have to have a back up unit #3,” says Kasper. “Our job is to make sure that we have enough equipment and personnel on hand to complete the regular day-to-day cleanings as well as the emergency calls that come in. You can’t pull your equipment from the normal cleanings to attend to the emergencies, and there are always emergencies.”

Flagship relies on a fleet of Tymco sweepers for the job. “We use Tymco air sweepers,” says Kasper. “We’ve got Tymco 600s, Tymco 210s, Tymco 435s. We also have a couple of Tennant sweepers. We use poly brooms from United Rotary on all of our sweepers. We also use a FOD Boss that we pull behind the sweeper that picks up even more than the sweeper, and a magnet attached to the sweeper to pick up the metal.

“What’s really interesting is when it rains, the water pushes other debris out of the expansion joints. Even though we sweep it a couple of times a day, after a rain, there will be twice as much debris as normal.”


After 9-11, security changed for sweeping personnel just as drastically as it did for passengers. “I remember back in the day at DFW, there were no guard shacks at any point,” says Kasper. “Everyone that had airport access just scanned their badge and the gate opened. It’s not like that anymore. Now, there are steel speed barriers that nothing can make it through and armed guards at every gate.

“Like all airports and vendors, Flagship and DFW has had to adapt. There are always new rules—areas that we were able to move around freely, now require a police escort or are heavily guarded. Our hoppers get checked coming in and going out to make sure nothing is transported in or out. It’s hard on everyone but we are concerned about airport safety, so we do what we have to do.”

In addition to their movements being monitored, Flagship employees go through rigorous checks before they step foot onto the airport. “In addition to the regular background checks for our employees, those at the cargo facilities are required to have custom seals, which is an even more intensive background check. So for them, it’s around $250 per employee compared to the $150 for a regular check.”


To work at DFW, you have to hold a minimum of $10 million in insurance coverage and have umbrella coverage of $25 million. “DFW is one of the busiest airports in the country,” says Kasper. “Eighth largest in terms of passengers, I believe, so there is a lot of activity in every direction—inside the terminal and on the tarmac. We are used to that at Flagship. The congestion leads to an interesting cleaning schedule though. We clean every gate and ramp twice a day and we always have to be on the watch for a plane coming in and make sure we’re not in the way!”

The congestion also leads to an interesting cleaning schedule. “We clean every gate and ramp twice a day, but if you get to A21 and there’s a plane there, then you go to the next one and come back. Sometimes, you’re in the middle of sweeping a gate and the next thing you know there’s a Boeing 747 pulling in. Then you have to stop and drive off as fast as you can go.”

No matter what, Flagship gets it clean. And, with Flagship’s hard work and diligence, American’s planes will continue to fly high in the years to come.

Story by Jennifer Taylor