11 minutes

Managing winter operations during a pandemic

The winter operations season began in an unprecedented context. This period, which was already a challenge because of the weather, now faces a new one with the coronavirus pandemic.  

Managing winter operations during COVID-19 requires companies to redouble their efforts and thinking about information, time, cost and security management.

Managing winter operation with data

For many pilots, the winter season is the most delicate period to takeoff and landing. It is therefore essential for them to receive the right information in order to respect the deadlines as much as possible, and to know the flight conditions.  

More and more airlines and airports are using technology to support their winter operations. PrimeFlight Aviation and Swoop have digitized their processes with the implementation of a deicing software, allowing them to have more control and more visibility over the deicing operation by centralizing all deicing data from all stations together much more quickly (see the testimonial of Zac Hulse, Regional Manager, Domestic Affairs at Swoop Airline).

This finally results in saving a large amount of time and money as well. Developing this software that combines personalization, mobility and simplicity of use allows them to ensure accuracy, productivity and efficiency (see the testimonial of Waseque Miah, Senior Director – Deice Operation & Compliance Support at Primeflight Aviation Services).

This is also the case for Denver Airport, which won the Balchen/Post award. By using a customized deicing management software during a typical snow event, they will reduce airline delays by 2.6 minutes per aircraft and total costs by $88,000This amounts to an estimated saving of $5.8 million per deicing season by improving efficiency and reducing wait times at deicing pads.  

By utilizing the latest technology and making other improvements to snow management, the airport has reduced the average amount of time needed to clear a runway from 45 minutes to under 15 minutes.


Managing training during a pandemic 

Preparing for a new season involves training new seasonal workers. As the coronavirus pandemic has hit the aviation industry hard, training of temporary winter services workers also faces a new challenge as it must now comply with COVID requirements. 

On the other hand, worker training faces another problem. Since many borders are closed, temporary external workers who came from abroad couldn’t be on board. This means that almost all temporary workers hired for this season are untrained recruits, who must be trained as fast as possible and under exceptional circumstances. 

To meet this challenge, Frankfurt Airport came up with the brilliant idea of training employees internally instead of recruiting external temporary workers. Fraport used to employ and train 900 seasonal employees for winter services but due to the pandemic their needs have been reduced to 600. By recruiting and training the employees who otherwise work in administrative positions at the airport, they were able to recruit the 600 they needed for winter operations.  

To guarantee the success of our winter operations means not only heavy investments in machinery, but also having high-quality staff with decades of experience and knowledge, as well as continuous training and education regarding new methods and the data that we collect from the runway and weather information programmes says Daniel Lütscher, Head of Fraport AG’s Infrastructure – Airport Facilities and Area Services Department. 

Some opportunities… 

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a very negative impact on the aviation industry and more generally on the world economy. But it is important to move forward and ask what the benefits, as weak as they are, may be and how to exploit them. 

First, the pandemic offers a real opportunity for employee training due to the reduction in air traffic. For example, new recruits at Frankfurt Airport could not previously be trained directly on the runways. Today, this is no longer impossible, and it allows them to be much more competent.  

On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that the recovery will require a lot of effort and work, especially since new standards will have to be met. This moment of decline in activity should make it possible to anticipate the recovery and train the teams now.  


About Balchen/Post Award

At the International Aviation Snow Symposium in May of 1976, the Col. Bernt Balchen Award for excellence in snow and ice control was established. Balchen, a native of Norway, became a US citizen and had a distinguished career in aviation, particularly in pioneering Arctic exploration. Balchen served in the US Air Force and was a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient. 

At the 30th annual IASS in 1996, the awards were renamed the Balchen/Post Awards to honor the contributions of Wiley Post, Jr. Mr. Post was chairman of the first IASS, and is celebrated for his dedicated service to the IASS that spanned 30 years. 

The Balchen/Post Award criteria: 

  • Degree of in-depth preparedness 
  • Effectiveness of snow and ice control program 
  • Timeliness and accuracy of communications during the snow and ice control effort with 
  • Post-storm activity




Managing the snow and winter season at Finavia’s Ivalo Airport – International Airport Review – Jarmo Pyhäjärvi (Ivalo Airport Internation) – November 24, 2020  

Winter services in the face of coronavirus at Frankfurt Airport – International Airport Review – Daniel Lütscher (Fraport AG) – November 24, 2020 

Denver International Airport’s award-winning winter operations – International Airport Review – Denver International Airport – November 27, 2020 

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