DFS Aviation Services wins Airport Technology Excellence Award for Best Covid-19 response


DFS Aviation Services (DAS) impressed the jury of the Excellence Award with its operational model for its airport customers in Germany. This enabled DAS to act flexibly at all times during the coronavirus crisis, guaranteeing the safety of air traffic for its hard-pressed airport customers, while minimising the risk of infection for their air traffic controllers.

DFS Aviation Services GmbH, a subsidiary of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung offers Air Navigation Services (ANS) to nine small and medium-sized airports in Germany. Covid-19 hit the entire aviation industry and all stakeholders unexpectedly – and hard. German airport customers also were and are massively affected by the economic consequences, as the so-called “regional airports” in Germany are required to bear the costs of the necessary air traffic control services themselves. The abrupt and massive Covid-related drop in air traffic posed special challenges for these airports and consequently also for DAS as a certified air traffic controller in Germany. It was necessary to protect the health of the air traffic controllers, while ensuring the safety and continuity of operations.

The operation model provides all sides with the necessary flexibility
For providing Air Traffic Services, DFS Aviation Services uses a unique operational model that ensures both the safe provision of service and a flexible approach to any change of circumstance. The basis of this model has been tried and tested for more than 10 years now, but its rapid adaptability and high level of effectiveness was proven especially during this enormous Covid crisis. “Airfields cannot simply close overnight. As part of the critical infrastructure, operations must be adapted to the circumstances and their continued operation ensured. Our operational model allows us to get our customers and us through the crisis in the best possible way, while maintaining the highest quality and safety level”, says Albert Urban, Head of Operations at DFS Aviation Services.

For ATS delivery, DAS utilises several key positions that are, to different degrees, both stakeholder and operations focused. In addition to Air Traffic Controllers, the operational model includes Team Managers and Tower Managers who are dedicated key contacts for the various stakeholders at each tower. Tower Managers take care of external communication with authorities and the management level at customers. They are also the contact person for the local works councils. Team Managers are the key contacts for daily operations at the airports and towers. In our central office in Langen, our operational experts provide support for the local teams at the airports. Allocating communication to several key positions enables us to ensure coordinated and smooth alignment with all stakeholders.

The coronavirus pandemic illustrated the strength of the model in recent months
During the first global shutdown and lockdown in 2020, coordination and alignment were the most crucial and time-consuming aspects, for which the DAS Operation team could rely on its established communication mechanisms, while frequency had to be greatly increased. It was necessary to react on the basis of incomplete information, decisions taken had to be corrected due to constantly changing information, all with the involvement of a much greater number of stakeholders than usual. The rostering of our air traffic controllers needed to be adjusted on a daily basis, based on the rapidly-changing conditions. “These serious changes in a very short period of time were a challenge for everyone involved. Staff, works councils and management had to jointly redesign the procedures and processes to be flexible, while maintaining stability and security at all times. This was only successful thanks to the commitment and the well-honed, flat hierarchies at DAS”, say Philip Ammermann and Matthias Hieronimus, Tower Managers at DAS.

The operational model of DFS Aviation Services demonstrated its resilience, capacity and flexibility during this Covid crisis, which has attracted positive feedback and appreciation from customers. It enabled DAS and its stakeholders – including customers, employees and authorities – to provide the best possible Covid-19 response. Today, the model continues to provide all stakeholders with an optimal balance between health protection, safety, capacity and operational resilience in the ongoing crisis situation.

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