Blown away: MSP Airport wins national award for snow removal


May 2, 2019

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) recently received the industry’s highest and most prestigious award for “excellence in the performance of airport snow and ice removal” - the Balchen/Post Award.  

The award is for the 2018-2019 winter season and was presented at the American Association of Airport Executives’ annual International Aviation Snow Symposium in Buffalo, New York. 

MSP earned the honor in the large commercial airport category – those with more than 200,000 takeoffs and landings annually. 

On hand to receive the award were several people from the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s (MAC) Operations and Field Maintenance crew.  

“We have a great team and they really stepped up to the challenge this past winter,” said Sara Freese, assistant director of Operations and Field Maintenance. “We’re thrilled to receive this honor.”  

Total snowfall at MSP Airport for the season was 77.1 inches – more than 40 percent above the seasonal average of 54.4 inches. In February alone, the airport received 38.9 inches – the fourth snowiest month on record at MSP. 

Our team’s snow removal work was captured in a video, available here.

The field maintenance crew put in countless hours - many times staying overnight -- enabling crews to work around the clock in shifts.    

Keeping the airport operational during extreme weather events contributes to MSP’s overall on-time record. MSP had the best on-time record among major airports globally in 2017, and ranked third in 2018, according to the OAG Punctuality League, which tracks on-time performance of the world’s airports and airlines. 

The criteria for winning the award is based on an airport’s:

  • Degree of in-depth preparedness
  • Effectiveness of snow and ice control program
  • Timeliness and accuracy of communications during the snow and ice control efforts
  • Post-storm activity (clean-up and critique)

The last time MSP won the Balchen/Post award outright was in 2001 for the 2000-2001 season. MSP also received honorable mention for the 2017-20182016-2017, and 2001-2002 seasons.

The Balchen/Post Award is named for Col. Bernt Balchen, a legendary pilot who was the first to fly over both the north and south poles and the chief pilot for Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s historic Antarctic expedition, and Wiley Post, a founder and long-time general chairman of the snow symposium.