by Nong Que / 8 minutes read

Aircraft Turnaround Procedures: How to Achieve Best Practices

Aircraft turnaround time is critical for on-time flights and smooth passenger flow. Many factors come into play, including aircraft type, local procedures, maintenance requirements, flight capacity, and others, and each situation should be viewed individually. There are, however, standardized procedures in place that make aircraft turnaround extremely efficient and safe.

Aircraft Turnaround (Source: Internet)
Aircraft Turnaround (Source: Internet)

Common Problems Result in Longer Aircraft Turnaround

There are three common issues that cause aircraft turnaround delays. Depending on the severity of the situation, these can cause minor delays or significant delays. Delays cost time and money regardless of the cause, so following standardized procedures to ensure a smooth and safe flow of processes is always a priority. The following are three major causes of delays:

Waiting for Passengers

Although passengers are informed clearly about the time and they should arrive in time to get on the plane, there are passengers who miss the time because of many unexpected reasons, and this happens frequently. It takes time and effort to look for passengers who should have been on the flight or via a flight transfer, but it is not known if the passenger is missing until the aircraft doors are closed.

Waiting for customer (Source: Internet)
Waiting for customer (Source: Internet)

Unsmoothly-run Ground Handling Services

Passenger handling, baggage handling, ramp handling, and cargo handling are all examples of ground handling services. If any of these services is delayed, it becomes a glitch in a well-oiled machine. If one department is late, it can cause a snowball effect, causing the next to be delayed, which causes another to be delayed due to crews having to switch to other flights to keep other aircraft on schedule.

Ground handling service (Source: Internet)
Ground handling service (Source: Internet)

Aircraft Ground Damage

According to the International Air Transport Association, aircraft ground damage costs will rise to more than $8 billion by 2030. Ground support equipment (GSE), other aircraft, passenger boarding bridges, poorly connected hoses, ducts, and cables, and other factors all contribute to aircraft ground damage. The longer the delay, the greater the severity of the damage. Because so much aircraft ground damage is caused by human error, promoting a safety culture is critical. Training and adherence to safety guidelines will always reduce the number of incidents. In the long run, noncompliance never saves time.

There are so many variables at work that it is critical to adhere to the standardized procedures, rules, and regulations in order to avoid mistakes and a breakdown of the system that has been put in place.

Aircraft ground damage (Source: Internet)
Aircraft ground damage (Source: Internet)

How to Achieve Best Practices to Ensure Aircraft Turnaround Time?

Optimize operation

Specialization and standardization are two key points to optimize the operation of any business or work. Standardized procedures aid in the establishment of safety protocols that must be followed and the creation of a system that makes it simple to do so. 

On the other hand, specialization allows each team/department in the system to get familiar with their work and have better training. When cleaning, cargo handling, and passenger boarding procedures are always the same, the process becomes faster through repetition. You remember how to do it, just like you remember your multiplication tables. It is the standardized safety guidelines that must be followed concurrently that allow you to perform your tasks efficiently while also meeting all of the requirements without incidents, which keeps flights on time and airlines and passengers happy.

It takes a lot of coordination between the airline, airport, and ground service providers to create a time-efficient aircraft turnaround. Knowing when the aircraft will land and making ground handling services available (while not taking them away from other jobs) requires some coordination. To choreograph such a complex process quickly and safely, a great deal of understanding and training is required. The essential steps are as follows:

Step 1: Arrival

To begin a flawless aircraft turnaround, ground handling services must plan their activities prior to the arrival of the aircraft. A large part of this is due to the aircraft loading and unloading processes.

A sample of standardized arrival procedure (Source: Internet)
A sample of standardized arrival procedure (Source: Internet)

Step 2: Loading

Loading aircraft must be done carefully but quickly. The person in charge of aircraft load supervision is in charge of verifying aircraft registration and performing a hold inspection once unloading is complete. They will perform a damage check, crosscheck ULD gross weight and load information codes, destination airports, and more before loading begins. It is critical that all weights and balances are kept in check during loading, that safety protocols are followed, and that proper restraints are used. A final hold check is performed after the loading, and the LIR (Loading Instruction Report) is signed.

Step 3: Unloading

Upon landing, it is necessary to ensure that no load has shifted during the flight and that all ULDs have been properly loaded and have not been damaged during the flight. A cargo hold inspection must be performed, and any damage must be documented. Spills do happen from time to time, and they must be cleaned up according to the spill response plan before unloading.

Step 4: Securing & Spreading the Load

It is critical to properly secure the load during the transport of baggage and cargo on an aircraft in order to avoid causing damage to the aircraft or injuring those who load and unload the cargo. Securing the load means keeping it secure enough during flight to avoid movement that could affect the weight distribution and balance of the aircraft. It is critical to use the proper tie-downs and secure the ULDs to the cargo floor. Spreading the load to evenly distribute the weight and adequately keep it balanced is required to maintain a level of safety for the duration of the flight and all on board.

Step 5: Unit Load Devices (ULD)

Before loading or after unloading, ULDs should be inspected for damage. All ULDs must be securely fastened to the cargo floor in accordance with the ULD configuration and aircraft type.

Unit Load Devices (ULD) (Source: Internet)
Unit Load Devices (ULD) (Source: Internet)

Step 6: Departure

Ground crew members who are responsible assist in preparing the aircraft for departure. They are in charge of each aircraft's pushback prior to flight. They ensure that all safety procedures are followed, allowing for a smooth transition from one pre-departure activity to the next, such as connecting the tractor to the nose gear and removing the wheel chocks.

Optimize the Preparation Time

Preparing for the flight in advance allows for a quick aircraft turnaround while still adhering to safety standards. This can be handled in a variety of ways, including refueling, catering, cleaning, baggage handling, and cargo handling. Having ground handling services prepared for the aircraft's landing and ready to perform their duties means less time waiting for personnel to arrive to finish the job.

Innovation and Upgrading

When it comes to saving time and money, innovation is always at the forefront. Innovation does not always imply the development of high-tech products; it can also refer to clever ideas or a new way of doing things. Also, ground support equipment (GSE) that functions properly will always ensure aircraft turnaround punctuality. You should have a properly planned and executed GSE maintenance program supported by appropriately trained GSE maintenance staff in appropriate facilities to make sure everything is functioning well. 

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Final Thoughts

Failure to communicate effectively between teams can lengthen aircraft turnaround time. Noncompliance can result in costly errors, which only add to the delays. So, ensure that all procedures are strictly adhered to while remaining time-efficient. Standardization and standard procedures are critical for reducing aircraft turnaround time. Innovation and upgrading are also important components, and investing in cutting-edge ground support equipment is another way to stay on schedule.

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Written by

Nong Que

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As an interior designer, I have done many researches regarding building a healthy living space. This job is my passion and I am happy that I have helped a lot of customers to improve their living space. Out of work, I like art, I often spend time on painting to relax myself. Completing a colorful painting helps me refresh my energy.

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