Faces of YWG: Crew 2 - Airfield Maintenance

From the left: Darcy Toderan, Bryce Wells, Chris Molinski, Jason Christensen, Ray Demarcke, Dennis Kurchaba, Ryan Monforton, and Rory Thompson. (Jason Genick not pictured)

Long before the snow falls, the Airfield Maintenance Specialists at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport are busy preparing to keep travel on track during snowstorms. One of the keys to their success lies in the diverse make-up of their team — a combination of full-time and seasonal employees as well as varying levels of experience and expertise.

Meet the Crew

Bryce Wells began working at the airport in 2018. He started as a seasonal shoveller and then stayed on during the summer to help escort contractors onto the airfield for the Runway 13/31 Rehabilitation project. This winter, Wells advanced to become the new operator on Crew 2.

“I was dreaming of driving the trucks last year and now I actually get to,” said Wells. “You get to know the airfield better and learn how things operate.”

As a shoveller, he kept the walkways clear for passengers and staff to safely walk out to the planes, known as ground loading. A number of airlines ground load at YWG including Bearskin Airlines, CalmAir, Canadian North and WestJet Encore. Wells is excited to continue to learn from his co-workers and has set a goal to be able to operate every piece of equipment by the end of the season.

Being familiar with heavy machinery is a huge asset on the airfield. Ryan Monforton has been working in snow removal at YWG for the past six winters, a natural extension for him after running his own construction company every summer. He joined the team full time this year and is proud of his team’s contributions.

“It’s nice to know we can keep the runway open and the airport up and going even in those big, heavy storms,” said Monforton.

The airport’s Airfield Maintenance crews work 12-hour shifts, day and night, overseeing approximately 1.1-million square metres of pavement. Airfield Maintenance Specialist Darcy Toderan, who has been with the airport for 13 years and previously worked as the Airport Manager at Gillam Airport, says many people don’t realize it takes weeks to clean up after a heavy snowfall.

“You need to take the snow onto the grass and blow it further away, haul snow from wherever there are piles and clear the localizers and glide paths, which guide the aircrafts coming in,” said Toderan. “If too much snow is on them, they don’t get a proper signal.” 

Toderan says the wind can be your best friend on the airfield as crews work to maintain the 100 foot centre of the runway to always be open and swept. The runways and taxiways are the main priority but all areas need to be maintained.

Both Toderan and Ray Demarcke are members of Crew 2 who can operate any piece of equipment. Since joining the airport seasonally in 1999, Demarcke has seen many changes impact his role including fine-tuning schedules, gaining new equipment and the move to the new terminal. 

“I prefer the bridges on the new terminal,” said Demarcke. “The old ones used to stick out so far and you would never know if you’d go around a corner and all of a sudden they’d start pushing a plane out. Now the visibility is a lot better.”

With nine members on a crew, the Airfield Duty Manager is responsible for coordinating the overall snow removal strategy.

“I make sure their job fits their training and expertise and everyone is getting trained to a good level for succession type planning,” said Crew 2 Airfield Duty Manager Jason Christensen, who has worked at YWG for 27 years, five of which as a firefighter. 

Both the Airfield Duty Manager and the crew member in the lead truck stay in constant communication with the control tower to determine when they can and can’t be on the runways. 

“I am also responsible for reporting the condition of the runway,” said Christensen. “So any contaminants I see like snow, slush or de-icing fluid and what percentage.”

Christensen has been providing Runway Condition Reports as mandated by Transport Canada for over 20 years. 

“What I see visually and what can be translated by paper or computer to help the pilot realize what is happening on the ground.”

From storm to storm and winter to winter, the members of Crew 2 play an integral role in helping YWG get passengers and cargo where they need to be all year round.

Faces of YWG is a profile series on the people working around the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport who help the Winnipeg Airports Authority go above and beyond.


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