Categories: Transportation

Aircraft ground handling

In aviation, aircraft ground handling defines the servicing of an aircraft while it is on the ground and (usually) parked at a terminal gate of an airport.

Many airlines subcontract ground handling to airports, handling agents or even to another airline. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), conservative estimates indicate airlines outsource more than 50 per cent of the ground handling that takes place at the world’s airports. Ground handling addresses the many service requirements of an airliner between the time it arrives at a terminal gate and the time it departs on its next flight. Speed, efficiency, and accuracy are important in ground handling services in order to minimize the turnaround time (the time during which the aircraft must remain parked at the gate). Faster turnarounds for lower ground times are correlated to better profits.

Airlines with less-frequent service or fewer resources at a particular location sometimes subcontract ground handling or on-call aircraft maintenance to another airline, as it is a short-term cheaper alternative to setting up its own ground handling or maintenance capabilities.

Airlines may participate in an industry-standard Mutual Assistance Ground Service Agreement (MAGSA). The MAGSA is published by the Air Transport Association (the current version is from 1981) and is used by airlines to assess prices for maintenance and support to aircraft at so-called MAGSA Rates, which are updated annually based on changes in the U.S. Producer Price Index. Airlines may choose to contract for ground handling services under the terms of a Standard Ground Handling Agreement (SGHA) published in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airport Handling Manual. Airlines may also contract for ground handling services under non-standard terms.

Most ground services are not directly related to the actual flying of the aircraft, and instead involve other tasks. The major categories of ground handling services are described below.

Handling aircraft
When handling an aircraft, air traffic is the preparation of an aircraft for the next flight.

The individual steps of the handling depend on whether the aircraft is first deployed on this day or whether the aircraft is already in a turnaround, ie that it has already served airports on that day. The complex processes, which should be as time-saving and secure as possible, are coordinated by an operator (planning) and a ramp agent (checking the correct execution). The individual process steps include:

Waving in and securing the incoming machine (Chocks, Pylons), contact the pilot
Ground power supply
Discharge or loading of the baggage (or in a cargo aircraft, the cargo)
the supply of food (catering)
the cleaning of the passenger cabin
Toilet and fresh water service
if necessary, de-icing

Providing ground power
In order to reduce fuel consumption and reduce the load on aircraft systems, in particular, to reduce the use of an auxiliary power plant, the power supply of aircraft systems in the parking lot is usually carried out from a ground source.

Most aircraft currently use a three-phase electrical current with a phase voltage of 115 V at a frequency of 400 Hz. Some types of aircraft use a constant voltage of 28 V.

Interior conditioning
In cold climates, warm air is supplied, and in hot weather – chilled. Air is fed into the air- conditioning system (SLE) by means of a hose (thin-walled large-diameter hose) through a quick-release connection in the air conditioning system of the aircraft, usually closed in a hatch in the hull.

Unloading and loading
Loading and unloading of baggage is usually made by dedicated teams. They can be equipped with auxiliary equipment – small tractors for trucks, conveyors, lifts and vehicles for handling containers.

For departure, the aircraft is refueled with fresh water and fuel.

Refueling can also be attributed to the draining of the contents of the receiving tanks of toilet systems. Depending on the design of the aircraft, it may be necessary to refill the toilet system with a special liquid.

Refills with other liquids (oils, hydraulic fluids) and gases (for example, oxygen) refer to the maintenance of the aircraft.

Cleaning of the salon is made for removal of debris and pollution from the salon of the aircraft and its cabin and preparation for the reception of passengers. Usually involves taking out the contents of garbage cans, cleaning the dirty seat covers of seats and seat belts of passengers and crew, vacuuming the garbage and wet rubbing the interior elements (windows, mirrors, armrests, luggage shelves and their covers).

The amount of cleaning depends on the form of maintenance of the aircraft and the time for cleaning. It can also be wholly or partly carried out with the help of the crew of the aircraft (usually cabin cabin crew) to reduce the time of aircraft parking and the costs of the airline.

Provision of catering
Catering is food and drinks for use by passengers and crew of the aircraft during the flight.

The supply is made by a dedicated service using cars equipped with an auto lift – rising to the level of the doors of the aircraft with the help of body lifts.

Anti-icing treatment
De-icing is carried out if necessary to remove frozen precipitation from the surfaces of the sun or to prevent their occurrence.

Usually it is produced on dedicated sites, where the aircraft is towed by a towing vehicle after the loading, luggage and landing of passengers have been completed. It is also possible to handle with running engines and processing on-site parking – this depends on the rules in force at a particular airport.

Running engines
The engines are started by the crew of the aircraft under the supervision of ground personnel, since normally the crew of the aircraft does not have the ability to observe the exhaust part of the engines and to monitor their condition visually.

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Ground personnel, before and during the launch, ensure that there are no foreign objects, people or special vehicles in the dangerous zones around the engines and aircraft; for lack of fluid leaks and visible deviations in the operation of engines and aircraft systems.

After performing anti-icing treatment, the aircraft must fly out within 20 minutes, otherwise re-treatment is required.

The release includes a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft, monitoring the start-up of engines (if necessary, starting from a ground source of compressed air or power) and, often, towing the aircraft from the parking place to the engine starting point.

For the time of towing and launching the aircraft, visual, wire or radio communication is organized between the aircraft crew and the issuing person.

After receiving from the crew a report on the normal operation of the aircraft systems, the issuer disconnects from the wire connection and switches to visual communication ahead and to the side of the aircraft. After the crew has received permission from the taxi controller, the crew will ask the issuer for a visual signal to start taxiing. In the absence of obstacles for taxiing, the issuing gesture is allowed to taxi, and the aircraft steers to the take-off place.

Cabin service
The primary aim of this service offering is to ensure passenger comfort. While cabin cleaning comprises the bulk of the effort, it also includes tasks such as replenishing onboard consumables (soap, tissues, toilet paper, reading materials) and washable items like pillows and blankets.

Catering includes the unloading of unused food and drink from the aircraft, and the loading of fresh food and drink for passengers and crew. Airline meals are typically delivered in Airline service trolleys. Empty or trash-filled trolley from the previous flight are replaced with fresh ones. Meals are prepared mostly on the ground in order to minimize the amount of preparation (apart from chilling or reheating) required in the air.

While some airlines provide their own catering, others have either owned catering companies in the past and divested themselves of the companies, or have outsourced their catering to third-party companies. Airline catering sources include the following companies:

Airline Services & Logistics PLC(EPZE)
American Airlines
Atlas Catering (Royal Air Maroc’s catering service)
Cara Operations
Cathay Pacific’s Cathay Pacific Catering Services
Chelsea Food Services
Gate Gourmet
KLM’s KLM Catering Services
LSG Sky Chefs
Q Catering (Qantas)
Thai Airways’s Thai Catering Services
United Airlines

Ramp service
This includes services on the ramp or apron, such as:

Guiding the aircraft into and out of the parking position (by way of aircraft marshalling),
Towing with pushback tractors

Lavatory drainage
Water cartage (typically non-potable for lavatory sink use)
Air conditioning (more common for smaller aircraft)
Airstart units (for starting engines)
Luggage handling, usually by means of beltloaders and baggage carts
Gate checked luggage, often handled on the tarmac as passengers disembark
Air cargo handling, usually by means of cargo dollies and cargo loaders

Catering trucks
Refueling, which may be done with a refueling tanker truck or refueling pumper
Ground power (so that engines need not be running to provide aircraft power on the ground)
Passenger stairs (used instead of an aerobridge or airstairs, some budget airlines use both to improve turnaround speed)
Wheelchair lifts, if required
Hydraulic mules (units that provide hydraulic power to an aircraft externally)

Handling the passengers
Passenger air traffic handling means all customer contacts and services that range from checking in the passenger for a flight (usually in the check-in hall) to boarding the aircraft. The handling is either done by the airline itself or by a handling company.

To ensure a smooth process, extensive process descriptions are defined, to which the handling agent also has to comply. These processes include u. a.:

the handling of airline tickets
the check-in procedure, which may be differentiated by technical and organizational measures (for example, the eve check-in, which allows passengers to drop off their luggage the day before)
Rules for the allocation of seats (for example, considering places that are particularly suitable for disabled persons or families with small children)
Handling of hand luggage
Limitations on number, size and weight of baggage depending on the transport class
Measures in case of delay or cancellation (eg rebooking rules, issue of hotel vouchers etc.)

Passenger service

Business jet cleaning
This includes services inside the airport terminal such as:

Providing check-in counter services for the passengers departing on the customer airlines.
Providing gate arrival and departure services. The agents are required to meet a flight on arrival as well as provide departure services including boarding passengers and closing the flight.
Staffing the transfer counters, customer service counters and airline lounges.

Field operation service
This service dispatches the aircraft, maintains communication with the rest of the airline operation at the airport and with Air Traffic Control.

Source from Wikipedia