This Is How We Silence All Traffic at Schiphol Airport

It is a poignant and important tradition in the Netherlands to commemorate the victims of the Second World War and all wars thereafter with two minutes’ silence on 4 May. Cyclists step off their bikes, motorists park their cars alongside the road, everyone takes a moment to reflect. As air traffic controllers, we also feel that it is important to allow people to share this moment in silence, without being disturbed by aircraft noise. But how exactly do we keep an airport quiet?

From 19.50 to 20.02 on 4 May, no aircraft will be given permission to take off. We also instruct aircraft to hold short of runways during this period. Well before 20.00, we start keeping arriving aircraft at an altitude of 2 kilometres or higher. They are only given permission to land after 20:02.

Air traffic control tower

Minimal aircraft noise

By keeping aircraft above 2 kilometres during the commemorative silence, aircraft noise is kept to a minimum. Taxiing traffic at the airport is also brought to a halt, so that people at the airport and on board aircraft can take a moment to reflect.

Silence in the control tower

Mostly, communications between air traffic control and pilots are suspended during the two minutes commemorative silence. This is especially a challenge with regard to traffic holding above 2 kilometres, which remains in motion. We keep monitoring this traffic from radar center, of course, but with good advance planning and clear communication with air traffic controllers in neighbouring countries as well pilots, it is possible to ensure two minutes’ silence.

Air traffic control tower

Perfect time

Which raises the question: how hectic do things get after the commemorative silence? Well, traffic does get backed up a bit, but advance warning ensures that pilots take this into account when planning their flight. In addition, 20.00 is the perfect time, because it is in between the inbound peak and outbound peak of traffic at Schiphol. That means things are less busy, but air traffic controllers do have work flat-out to get things back up to speed after the two minutes’ silence. But then we aren’t called “control” for nothing…

To give you some idea of the contrast between everyday traffic at Schiphol and the tranquillity from 20:00 until 20:02, we made a movie last year. Everything before and after the two minutes’ silence is played in fast-motion. The two commemorative minutes (1:10 – 3:05) are played at normal speed.

– Feike –

Posted by:   Feike en Carlijn  | 
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Small remark, important detail: Since 1961 The 2 minutes silence is for all the victims of wars during and since the 2nd world war.
A young(er) militairy veteran

Feike Westenbroek

You are absolutely right Erik. We will update this blog.

Best regards,

Peter Steijlen

I am sorry but you are mistaken! Since years now we also commemorate those we lost after all operations and peace actions…. since the second World War….

Peter Steijlen

Sorry, but you are mistaken! Since years now we als commemorate those fallen in other operations and peace actions since World War II. Let’s not forget those people….


I know that is custom now. But I do not agree. May 4th should be a rememberance for all thos who lost thier lives during WWII (1940-1945).
For all othe veterans we have Veterans Day.
But that is just my opinion …..


Very respectful – an impressive display of remembrance


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David Glazier

Absolutely awesome..


But I see some cars there moving!!

Feike Westenbroek

Schiphol is being visited by many nationalities, so not everybody will have the memorial on top of mind ;)

Sven de Mare

Thank you and well done. I am Dutch but live abroad. My parents lived through the 2nd World War and this video gave me the opportunity to have my own remembrance even though I am not in Holland. I appreciate it.


Thank you Sven. I’m the same not in Holland but like to have my own 2 minutes silence. Would like to say well done KLM . A very thoughtful video thank you for sharing .

Eef Wouters


Frans Kemper

Hello KLM Blog,
I love your blog and following it daily. I am a Dutch living abroad for the last 25 years or so, but have a strong affinity with the KLM due to my wife’s carrier with the company and my eight years of working for the Schiphol duty free.
My parents went through the horrors of the second world war, and obviously we heard their stories, so it lived vividly inside me.
During those eight years at Schiphol, I was always very impressed with the two minutes of silence on May 4.
But not more than one time, in the eighties. At that time big screen televisions were still sold at the duty free, and obviously all units were tuned into the ceremony. Many passengers watching and being touched. Suddenly an elder men started to cry. I approached him and got to talk with him. It appeared that this hero was in the Canadian military, sent to The Netherlands in 1944-45 and to fight for our freedom. He survived lost many comrades. He was never aware of this May 4th memorial, and was passing through the airport on his way to another destination. What a touchy coincidence. Something that will stay with me forever.


Ontroerend. Dank hiervoor.

Leo van der Voort

Zo mooi om te zien,zelf woon ik al 36 jaar in Canada,zegt heel wat als je heel Schiphol zo stil ziet,geweldig!

Joseph B. Cassidy, III

This kind of respect should be spread worldwide, but sadly, it’s not. If the Netherlands can pull this off, with pretty much success, all other countries should be able to do the same. Silence should mean what it is; respect should mean what it is, and there is no reason why that can’t be so. our veterans fought hard for the protection of our individual countries, and they do deserve that respect for their sacrifice. Even at the site of the World Trade Center, they have a minute of silence at both times the planes hit the towers, but yet, you still hear a lot of noise, and traffic continues to move. That needs to change, and if a huge airport can pull this off, it should not be that difficult in other places
You have shown a good example of how successful this can be, and we all must be able to follow suit.

Eveline van Heijst



Totally awesome video, and a very respectful gesture to all those who have died in war, for such a complex and critical ‘machine’ such as Schiphol is, to undertake to do. Well done and kudos to you all.

Ine van Ketel Eilander

Hier ben ik erg van onder de indruk. Ook ik ben al zo lang weg uit Nederland. Ik ben blij dit te hebben gezien en zodoende toch ook mijn 2 minuten stilte kunnen hebben.




Als veteraan, wonend buiten Nederland, zijn dit altijd de moeilijkste minuten van het jaar. Respect om te zien dat Schiphol alles doet om hen te gedenken die hun leven gaven.

Hans Waardenburg

Hulde aan alle mannen en vrouwen van air traffic control en alle staf aan boord van de vliegtuigen. Groot respect!


All for honoring the vets. I feel like preventing aircraft landing and then causing a huge human induced rush at one of the world’s busiest airports is courting disaster. I am sure they are professional and very good at their job but why take the risk. When people are busy it can cause additional errors that may not have occurred. The first time an accident occurs because of doing this the practice will undoubtedly stop.

Feike Westenbroek

Hi Joe,

Stopping aircraft on the ground is at no risk. Preventing aircraft to land is a daily job. Hughe amounts of traffic will cause delays in the air so our holding patterns become active almost daily. So we are trained and prepared for these kind of situations. Also, keep in mind that at the time of the memorial, Schiphol is on off-peak. An inbound peak with some fog or thunderstorms will keep us more busy than the 2 minutes of silence at May 4th. And memorial or not; safety first! If a situation is not as expected, we will intervene. We understand your concern, but we’ll keep it safe at all time.

Best regards,


It is also important to pass this on too our children. I my self have 2 sons. I’m very happy to see that they van find the respect to take 2 minutes of silence, while most of the nowadays take freedom for granted.


It’s wonderful and soul touching…..we can never never thank them enough – all those who went through the war /the ones who lost their lives and the ones who lived with disability the rest of their lives so that the following generations may live free! How can you possibly ever show your gratitude to these veterans? It beats me…….anything we do can never be enough God Bless em all

Edward Asscher

This is really very impressive.. Schiphol: compliments!


Absolute kudos to this great exercise!

Django Manglunki

I witnessed it just before boarding, and found it very moving. What a beautiful, yet simple, tradition.


Indrukwekkend. Deze dingen zijn niet meer zo vanzelfsprekend maar zie HET KAN!!!


As someone who has stood in Dam Square on the 4th, and who grew up in city that was bombed flat in the conflict, thank you sincerely to everyone in Schiphol, and the Netherlands, for this remarkable show of respect and remembrance. Thank you.

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