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Learn more about Finavia’s winter maintenance profession – “snowhow” is precise and physical work

Article published
25.6.2024 at 10:27
Cleaning snow on runway.
People & Aviation
In a country where winter lasts almost six months of the year, airports must be prepared to face all kinds of weather conditions, from freezing rain to snowstorms. Finavia’s winter maintenance professionals play an important role in this.

It is no coincidence that Finavia’s snowhow is unique on a global scale. This requires seamless cooperation, carefully practised steps, special maintenance equipment and solid expertise.

In winter, the everyday maintenance of the airport includes snow blowing, ploughing and sweeping as well as runway anti-skid treatment. Finavia’s goal is always safe and smooth air traffic in all weather conditions.

At Kuusamo Airport, the maintenance equipment includes a snowmobile

Anssi Aikio, who started as a seasonal worker at Kuusamo Airport during the 2021 winter season, likes his work in maintenance. This upcoming winter will be his third at Finavia.

“The work is varied and every day is different. The work is also physical, which helps me stay fit. If needed, I can also visit the staff’s own gym to do additional training.”

The main task of winter maintenance is to keep the runways and apron safe and functional for take-off and landing.

In Kuusamo, there is plenty of snow removal to be done in all its forms. Aikio mostly does sweeping with a sweeper blower. He also does snow blowing, and sometimes he ends up needing to shovel snow. As an all-rounder and airport rescuer, Aikio is also involved in the airport’s fire service, for which Finavia has trained him.

As for his educational background, Anssi Aikio has a further vocational qualification in the transport sector. He spotted an ad for the winter maintenance job on the TE Office website when he was still a student. Since he had always been interested in planes and had gained experience in using lorries and bigger machines at vocational college, he did not hesitate to submit an application.

“While working at Finavia, I have received excellent guidance for the job and training in using the equipment. I have gained confidence and skills in handling the equipment. Teamwork is the key in all this.”

In winter, the team consists of just over 10 colleagues and the work is done in two shifts. Aikio finds the fire and rescue part of his work particularly interesting.

“When planes want to land and the snow just keeps coming, you must rush to clear the runway. Immediately afterwards, you need to get from the runway to the maintenance building as we have to be ready to act within three minutes, and when the plane lands, you need to be inside the fence with a fire engine if called.”

Aikio names snowmobiling as a favourite task in his job description.

“The protective fence around the airport area needs to be checked regularly for animals. The best way to do this is to drive around the airport area next to the fence on a snowmobile.”

Maintenance plays an important role in air traffic

Maintenance all-rounder Aimo Tulkki started working as a “winter guy” at Helsinki Airport in 2017, and has also worked on runway construction and earthworks projects.

Tulkki has trained as an electrician and has experience of lorries and machines from his time in the army. Since spring 2022, he has been a permanent maintenance employee.

“In winter, I mainly operate a snow blower. When it’s snowing, I follow the line of sweeper blowers on the runway in a snow blower. It takes a lot of skill to go down the entire runway in a formation at a width of just over 50 metres so that the entire runway is cleared. We have to be able to drive at a speed of 30 km/h on a snow blower to keep up with our schedule. For big machines, it’s a high speed, especially when the snow is hard and wet.”

In addition to runways and taxiways, maintenance is also carried out on the apron. Tulkki feels that his work is important, as maintenance is a key safety factor for air traffic. The work is done in two shifts around the clock.

In the winter of 2023, there will be 75 seasonal workers in winter maintenance, in addition to the permanent staff of about 50 people.

“Even though we use big machines and the work is physical, how you do at work depends on your attitude,” Tulkki says to everyone interested in working at the airport.

Read about the work of Finavia employees