What happens during an aircraft turnaround with British Airways…racing the clock
Tonight on ITV’s Heathrow – Britain’s Busiest Airport, Series 2, viewers got to see one of the tightest turn arounds at the airport as British Airways cleaned and preened a return flight to Brussels in just 50 minutes! We’ve taken a look at the clockwork operation to prepare an aircraft for passengers in more detail here.
NOTE: This turn around example is based upon the 50-minute Brussels turn around featured on ITV’s Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport.
As the aircraft taxis onto stand ground loaders are on hand to “choc” the aircraft (place stops behind the wheels) and connect to auxilliary power and air-conditioning, so that engine use is minimized.
The loaders then “Cone” the aircraft – placing safety cones on the ground to protect the wings and engine areas from vehicles that will be servicing the aircraft.
Once it is safe to do so, the Turnround Manager will connect the air bridge to the aircraft at which point vehicles and handlers underneath the wing will straight away start unloading baggage and cargo.
Passengers leave through the front of the aircraft and during this time a team of cleaners commence cleaning the cabin (starting from the back of the aircraft), making sure all unwanted magazines, newspapers, books and left items are cleaned away from seat backs and all rubbish removed. Toilets and galley areas are cleaned and supplies replenished.
If the next flight has a new crew, the operating pilots and cabin crew will be on stand awaiting the arrival aircraft. Prior to the arrival of the aircraft, the pilots will have already gone through their pre-flight routines including studying the route of travel and weather conditions, while the cabin crew will have confirmed their expected passenger load, and noted any customers requiring any extra assistance.
5 -10 minutes after arrival
By this point, all customers will have left the aircraft and the turnaround process steps up a notch. Simultaneously, toilets are emptied (the sewerage being removed from the plane), water supplies are topped up, cabin crew are performing their safety (SEP) and security checks and new catering arrives.
Trolleys, containers housing food, beverages and duty free goods are brought onto the aircraft and safely stowed away in the galley areas.
The aircraft interior is now ready for the next flight’s passengers, but there is still a lot to do to get it ready for take-off!
Underneath the wing, refueling of the aircraft begins and passenger baggage arrives via two loaders at either end of the aircraft to help speed up the process.
Pilots and cabin crew will at this point liaise with the Turnround Manager to confirm all the relevant facts and figures relating to the departing flight, e.g. duration, number of passengers, destination.
The next step for the pilots is to complete their own checks of the aircraft both inside and outside, including looking at the undercarriage and engines.
Airline customer service staff liaise with the Turnround Manager to confirm everything is set for the boarding process to begin before passengers are then directed onto the aircraft.
40-45 minutes in:
At the 40 minute mark, the aircraft tug (the vehicle that “pushes-back” the aircraft from stand) arrives ready for when preparations are complete.
Meanwhile, the final elements of the boarding process and the loading of baggage and cargo is completed.
45-50 minutes in:
Doors closed! The aircraft is now ready to depart and the tug will push it back from the stand so that it can taxi to the runway.
We’ve profiled two of British Airways’ stars who help out with the turnaround process in Episode 2 of ITV’s Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport, series 2:
- Meet Anasthasia, British Airways first aircraft ground handler
- The old red cap, British Airways turnaround manager Allan Butcher