LVNL: From peak pressure to substantial rest

Air traffic controllers from Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland (LVNL) are used to working during peak time periods. They accompany the planes that depart from or are arriving at Schiphol. Air traffic has been considerably reduced due to the flight restrictions surrounding the corona crisis. "It is much quieter," says traffic controller Martijn, "We are working with fewer colleagues in the Control Tower and on the radar. The situation is completely different”.

Getting used to the ‘new normal’
The initial period after corona hit was particularly intensive. The countries that remained open to air traffic or closed their airspace changed day by day. There were many ad-hoc decisions made and staffing was also complicated at first. Timetables were continuously changed, so colleagues were frequently offered stand-by shifts. It was all under control within a week or two and we got used to the ‘new normal’.

Time for projects
There is still a lot to do even though there are fewer flights, said Martijn. "Air traffic controllers who do not have to accompany flights at the moment have been seconded to projects. For example, I have more time for corporate communication, which is one of my tasks on the side. I can now also work from home while doing this, which is normally not an option for an air traffic controller”.

We are also training new air traffic controllers in full – but not in practice. The low number of flights means that trainees cannot gain enough useful experience in the field, but they can in the flight simulator. It is still to be worked out how colleagues will be deployed within the 1.5-metre society in the future, and what rules apply in the Control Tower. But they will be very welcome, in any case.

Different energy and focus
It is a pity that Martijn currently sees his colleagues less frequently. He said that the biggest challenge at the moment is that “… the current situation requires a different energy and focus compared to the work I normally do during peak time periods. You still have to keep doing your work just as accurately and precisely, despite the reduction in air traffic”.

Valuable online meetings
There have been some positive effects from the current situation. For example, the outcome of a recent meeting with KLM Cityhopper instructors to discuss their experiences during the crisis resulted in Microsoft Teams. It’s normally quite challenging to get everyone together at the same time. "Now everyone was able to be there from their own dining table. That was very valuable and we will do that more often in the future”.

There is also room for pride, even though it is a strange and extraordinary period with a lot of uncertainty. "If you see how flexible colleagues and management have been. Everyone adapts and has buckled down for the projects that are now being carried out”.

Positive view of the future 
Martijn is optimistic about the coming period: "I remain positive for the future. We are going to get good things out of this and use this period to prepare for even better services. More flights will hopefully take place again soon and travellers will get back on the airplane without fear, despite all the measures that are now in place.