FACES OF YWG: Airfield Duty Manager shares rich past with Winnipeg Richardson International Airport

Upon driving across the airfield, there isn’t a single landmark Richard Griffith isn’t familiar with, and in most cases, he knows how it came to be there too.

Griffith can tell you about the World War II hangar previously erected where Fast Air is now or about when FedEx used to operate out of a tent in front of the old museum in the early 90s. His knowledge of the airport predates when Winnipeg Airports Authority took over operating the airport from Transport Canada in 1997, in large part due to a strong family connection.

“My father started at the airport in 1958,” said Griffith. “He used to work an afternoon shift by himself and my earliest remembrance is me and my brother coming to work with him and riding around with him.”

By the time Griffith joined the airfield maintenance team in 1991, his father, Douglas, and his uncle, Sonny, had both retired from long careers at what was then Winnipeg International Airport. However, that didn’t stop his coworkers from nicknaming him Griff Junior upon starting. That same year, his brother, Rob, worked in the tower as an air traffic controller for NAV Canada and once again, YWG became a second home for the Griffith family.

Since 1991, Griffith has spent the past three decades learning from those who came before him and is thankful for the support he received along the way.

“Very good people worked here before me,” said Griffith. “They are retired now but were very knowledgeable and by watching what they did and asking questions you learned how the airfield operates.”

Now, as an Airfield Duty Manager, Griffith is responsible for coordinating many talented operators and prioritizing their individual strengths to help keep the airport operating 24/7/365. After seeing 29 Winnipeg winters come and go, he knows teamwork is crucial and so it determining the best technique to tackle specific weather conditions.

“Snow events are the biggest emergency we see,” said Griffith. “They are all different but in a lot of ways, they are all the same. Depending on which kind of storm is coming and what the temperatures are, you pretty well know what is going to happen and have to plough in a certain way in certain conditions to stop the ice from forming.”

Over the years, Griffith has seen the airfield maintenance team continue to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of the developing airport campus. He recalls how in the early 90s they used to do repair work on the airfield during the night because it was quiet. Now, YWG is one of the busiest airports in the country for cargo operations and nighttime traffic is constant year-round.

“Ever since the airport authority took over this airport, it’s grown exponentially,” said Griffith. “This is a setback with COVID-19, but the airport will come back again and continue to grow.”

Right now, Griffith says there is still lots of work to be done on the airfield to prepare for the next season, such as painting the runways, asphalt and fence repairs and much more. While Winnipeg Richardson International Airport is going through an incredibly difficult time amid COVID-19, coworkers like Griffith are continuing to contribute in any way they can to help YWG persevere and remain ready to serve the community in the future.

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.