A week on the airfield with Airside Operations


By Heathrow

Published 16th March 2015

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What’s it like working on the Heathrow Airport airfield? We’ve taken a peek behind the scenes at how it all works with our very own Airside Joe! Search #AirsideJoe on Instagram for more of his pics!


Having the latest information is essential to Joe’s role, therefore he’s in constant contact with colleagues in the Airport Operations Centre (pictured below). A place where the operational planning, monitoring and day-to-day oversight of Heathrow is managed from. The type of information shared can include stand changes, details of aircraft that require assistance parking, locations that our ambulance and other emergency services need escorting to. A lot of the information is expressed through the phonetic alphabet, a shared language of airlines and airside teams alike (details below). New technology allows Joe to access information faster than ever before.

Pictured below is the Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) portal which shows highly accurate, real-time information relating to every stage of the flight from pushback to ‘on blocks’ time. Want to know more about A-CDM? Visit our website.

Letter Phonetic letter


B Bravo
C Charlie
D Delta
E Echo
F Foxtrot
G Golf
H Hotel
I India
J Juliet
K Kilo
L Lima
M Mike
N November
O Oscar
P Papa
Q Quebec
R Romeo
S Sierra
T Tango
U Uniform
V Victor
W Whiskey
X X-ray
Y Yankee




One of the perks of Joe’s role is getting to see each airline’s fleet up from a new perspective! With more than 80 airlines, Heathrow is unique in the variety of aircraft arriving and departing everyday. Fleet identification is an important part of the role and therefore it is always exciting when a new livery arrives. As pictured below we were able to capture this British Airways Boeing 777-200 (G-YMML) with a special livery by Chinese fashion designer Masha Ma which marked the opening of the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai. Interestingly the festival was attended by the Duke of Cambridge, HRH Prince William.


Marshalling ensures all aircraft stop in the correct place and park safely on the gate for passengers to disembark. Due to the size and variety of aircraft at Heathrow, this part of the role takes training, precision and confidence to master. For larger aircraft, on some stands, a second marshaller is required to provide wingtip clearance. As technology has evolved the majority of aircraft are now parked via an automated system called Safedock. However, for operational reasons sometimes this system can’t be used, so Joe and the team are always ready to step in and do it ‘the old fashioned way’!

Click on image below to watch the video:



While on duty Joe is always in contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC) and his Airside Operations colleagues using different radio frequencies used on the airfield. With the team in constant contact any fault or hazard is raised, logged and dealt with immediately. Joe has been carefully trained to inspect the airside infrastructure ensuring it’s in top shape. For example here he is checking the runway guard ambers at A11 as a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-200 touches down. ‘Wig Wags’ are they are sometimes known help protect the runway from incursions.

New technology is making this part of Joe’s role a lot easier. Pictured here is the new inspector application which uses GPS to pinpoint exact locations and details to be sent to engineering and maintenance colleagues direct from the airfield.


This week we’re shadowing one of our Airside Operations Officers, Joe Audcent, otherwise know as Airside Joe. We wanted to see what his role entails and how he helps our operation run safely and smoothly.

Our Airside Safety Department provide a safe and efficient airfield for all users, in all weather and under all conditions – even with Heathrow operating at 98% capacity. There’s never a second of down-time, with members on duty 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year!

Joe is one of a team of 68 and with 2 years experience is a relative newcomer…one of his colleagues started in 1976! Joe’s first job after graduating from University was with the operations department of an airline and, with his love for the industry, now spends his working days out and about in an airside operations vehicle (pictured below).

On Instagram? Follow us @Heathrow_Airport and search #airsidejoe for more of Joe’s photos.

Are you an aviation fan? Why not also check out our Aviation Fan Zone for related content.


By Heathrow

Published 16th March 2015