on Friday, April 7, 2017
Ironman Holdings (Kelowna Airport Operations)
Whether big or small, airports need countless tasks performed seamlessly to ensure a smooth flow of passengers and baggage, especially during peak travel times. In the world of air travel, the word “downtime” doesn’t exist – even when exceptional circumstances come into play.
When Keith Halston and his baggage handling and de-icing crew at Kelowna International Airport got their new fleet of 3038E John Deere tractors, there were smiles all around. But then the winter of 2016/17 kicked in, one that brought extended periods of snow and near-record cold to southern BC. And it was right before Christmas, the airport’s busiest time of year, when the unseasonably cold weather unleashed its wrath.
Keith Halston & his team welcome six new John Deere 3038Es to the yard.
The normally reliable new tractors started to malfunction. Not because of a manufacturing defect, but because they had been outfitted with oil that would normally function just fine in Kelowna’s typical climate. However, the weather got so unusually cold that a lower viscosity oil was required for the extreme conditions. To put it into perspective, it was so cold even the de-icing equipment was breaking down.
And so exceptional circumstances required an exceptional response.
That’s when Blair Jahn and the team at PCE Kelowna jumped into action. With no time to waste, they pulled together every tractor on the lot that would meet the airport’s requirements – for example, the tractors couldn’t have cab covers because they needed to drive underneath airplane wings. And rather than waste time waiting for flat-bed transportation, Blair’s team drove the tractors one-by-one over to the airport, just a few kilometers away. Then one-by-one, they drove the malfunctioning rigs back to the shop.
Meanwhile, the service crew worked feverishly with engineers at John Deere’s corporate headquarters to figure out a fix for the 3-Series fleet. Once repairs were performed, the tractors were driven – one-by-one – back to the airport, with the last rig finding its way on to the tarmac just before Santa touched down on Christmas Eve.
But then, just as the PCE team were settling in for a long winter’s nap, more bad news. On Boxing Day, Blair caught a local news story about how baggage delays at Kelowna International were causing holiday travelers to wait up to 1.5 hours to retrieve their bags.
Was Scrooge back, playing a cruel joke? Thankfully, no. The baggage carousel had broken down.
It was a week that Keith and his crew at YLW won’t soon forget. But by working together under tough conditions, they made sure everyone who passed through the airport made it home for the holidays.
We know this because we saw it first-hand. And that made it easy for us to work hard for them.