Collaboration and co-operation will prove key to overcoming COVID-19 although aviation potentially faces a long road to recovery, writes Inderjit Singh.

Published with the kind permission of Airports Council International.

Aviation is one of the most important pillars of the global economy as the sector provides millions of jobs across the world and contributes heavily to its GDP.

It is also a survivor, as the industry’s previous recovery from events such as 9/11, the global financial crisis and SARS have proven over the last 20 years.

However, the world and aviation has seen nothing like COVID-19 before, and surviving it will require new levels of industry and global co-operation.

Global COVID-19 update

In just months, COVID-19 has already ‘infected’ every sector of the global economy. At the time of writing on June 9 there had been 7.2 million confirmed cases in 213 countries, with over 409,000 of them succumbing to the illness.

It is difficult to talk of commercial impacts amidst such human tragedy but, obviously, airports and airlines have been among the biggest corporate casualties of this outbreak. As the coronavirus and resulting government restrictions quickly brought air passenger traffic to a halt; the knock-on effect has hit everyone working in the transport, tourism and commerce chains.

How long will it take aviation to return to its pre-coronavirus levels? Unfortunately, the short answer, is not for a very long time. The recovery will be long and slow, but it will happen.

Working together is the name of the game

In essence, we must step-up the current level of industry and global co-operation several gears to ensure that we’re all working together to create an ecosystem and an environment of confidence where passengers feel safe to take to the skies again.

ICAO has been working with governments and industry partners ACI and IATA to ensure that harmonised and updated procedures are made available in order to keep passengers safe, the world connected, and the virus contained.

Indeed, ICAO secretary general, Dr Fang Liu, and World Health Organization director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently reaffirmed their commitment to foster greater international co-operation to contain the virus and to protect the health of travellers.

ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, has gone on record as welcoming the multi-sector and multi-agency communication, noting that the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on aviation has “highlighted the need for effective co-ordination and a proportionate response from States”.

IATA director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, has stated: “Safety is always our top priority and that includes public health. Our layered approach of measures recommended by airports and airlines safeguard public health while offering a practical approach for a gradual restart of operations.

“That is key to restoring public confidence so the benefits of safely re-starting aviation can be realised.”

Today’s COVID-19 impacted world means that the aviation industry is now charged with embracing a new responsibility for managing public health risks in close co-ordination with the WHO, and other health related research agencies, effectively developing a ‘new normal’ for the industry.

Solutions can’t come quickly enough as ACI World analysis indicates that airports are set to lose around 40% of their traffic and 50% of their revenues in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The latest data suggests that worldwide domestic markets are down by 70% in 2020, and worryingly, an IATA consumer confidence survey revealed that only 14% of passengers said they would fly right away, while 60% said they would fly again within one to two months of containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 40% said that they could wait six months or more before they take to the skies again.

These findings will reshape and reimagine the passenger journey, and the goal should be about building passenger trust and confidence by making travel safe, easy and contactless. This strategic technological transformation is critical for the future of the air transport industry.

Reactivating aviation

The path to restarting the industry is certainly not going to be an easy one, which is why I am pleased to report that across the globe, governments are beginning to co-ordinate their efforts and industry co-operation is growing, with the health and wellbeing of passengers and staff as the priority.

And this kind of working together will be needed as demand for air travel isn’t expected to really pick up again until there’s a breakthrough vaccine or other lasting solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only through demonstrative visible and effective measures can we regain the confidence of the stakeholders in the industry, as was done post 9/11, with the new invasive security measures.

The new measures weren’t popular with passengers, and without doubt added to the hassle of flying, but they soon became accepted as a necessary requirement, more so when they became standardised across the globe.

In the coming weeks and months, airlines will look to return to the skies with some reflection on the shrinking of fleets. In the short-term, one of the primary focuses will be on how to drive new operational cost efficiencies with smarter and more efficient aircraft and turnaround operations.

Airport operations will need to become more flexible and adaptive to rapidly changing passenger volumes and requirements. It is expected that domestic travel will bounce back more quickly than international, although some countries have already opened up their borders again to a limited number of overseas destinations.

The modalities related to kick-start air travel post COVID-19 are still evolving. It is too early to predict when airports worldwide would be able to return to handle their full capacity. A lot of it will depend on how aviation’s regulatory authorities assess and react to the extraordinary ‘new normal’, and what governments across the globe do to cope with the evolving scenario. Until then it is a ‘work in progress’ situation.

Primarily based on advice from the WHO, the world’s airports and airlines are in the process of integrating and enforcing the primary norms of social distancing, sanitisation, and increased frequency of air-changes to control the spread of the pandemic in airport terminals and onboard aircraft.

These may at best remain short-term measures and won’t be economically, socially and logistically sustainable in the long run.

I expect that airports will initially be able to cope quite well in terms of maintaining the new social distancing requirements because of the lower passenger numbers – airlines are likely to operate reduced frequencies and smaller aircraft on routes – meaning that the capacity of airport terminals is unlikely to be stretched.

However, sustaining physical distancing norms over a longer period of time with increased traffic will lead to congestion and delays in processing times.

In the new paradigm that the aviation is facing, technology will play an increasingly important role in supporting the recovery of airports following COVID-19 pandemic. Technology could be leveraged and positioned to minimise personal contact through a layered approach of biosecurity measures proposed by covering the passenger journey, from pre-flight to end of the air journey.

This is especially so in the area of ‘touchless’ and ‘contactless’ solutions such as mobile and self-service biometrics, temperature scans, e-gates, and RFID readers for the verification of e-chip data embedded in passports.

The key elements of the Public Health Corridor (PHC) concept are the use of ‘clean’ crew, aircraft and airport facilities transporting ‘clean’ passengers with minimal restrictions on aircraft operations, whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19 through air travel and protecting the health and safety of crew  and passengers.

Given the lack of a vaccine and definitive treatment for COVID-19, and persisting limitations on testing and resources, ICAO notes that while the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel cannot yet be completely eliminated, the risk to crew and passengers can be significantly mitigated by PHC measures.

My take on things

COVID-19 is still an evolving phenomenon. Much has been done and much more action is in the pipeline to allow aviation – and the world in general – to combat and eventually overcome the pandemic.

The most important thing to remember going forward is to treat and respond to the situation with care rather than scare. Cynics have often mentioned that aviation will never be the same. This may well be true, but it will eventually emerge from COVID-19 as a safer and healthier industry.

At the end of this write-up we are perhaps left with as many questions as there are answers or more questions still to be answered. It is my conviction that it is better to debate a question without instantly settling it than to settle a question without debating it.



Alastair Gordon has released the first of three aviation books in Powerpoint format.  If you need slides for a presentation or a lecture look in this book.

If you need the original photos, Alastair has lots and lots to choose from.

Alastair has many years experience in Ground Handling and GSE Maintenance.  He has worked and consulted in Africa so he knows the local conditions and has also consulted overseas, for example, he was part of the Airbus 380 ground handling project.

Below is his blurb:

This is a large file – 116Mb. please feel free to download. This is the first of 3 “Book” I compiled, in Power Point format. Please provide feedback!

Click through to his website and press the DOWNLOAD button.  While you are there look at the articles he has written on the site.

These are some of the articles he has written on this site.  They show the depth of his knowledge:



















Jet blast is dangerous.  Ramp workers, vehicles and even aircraft can be blown away and killed or damaged.  This research topic is designed for researchers, learners, etc to calculate just how dangerous jet blast is.

Research Topics# 53

Topic Airside safety

Subject Safety

Subject Group
Ground operations and handling

Website Category
Ground handling security research topics. See all Research Topics on this subject by clicking on the link in the right-hand column in our front page.

Research Guidelines
This is a whimsical topic designed to emphasise the dangers of jet blast.

WE EMPHASISE – This is a theoretical topic!!!!!!!!!!!
It is recommended that this is not done as a live exercise as you will endanger and may injure or kill the unfortunate female!

The effect of jet blast
Jet blast at a beach at the end of a runway

We found this photo on the net.  If it is your photo, we will remove it if you want us to.  If not, please give your contact details so that we can give you credit.

Can jet blast blow off a girl’s bikini top? Consider the following questions:

  1. What is the pressure generated by a jet aircraft?
  2. How far behind the aircraft does the blast extend?
  3. How does the pressure vary with the different phases of flight; idling on the ramp, taxying and take-off?
  4. How is the blast affected by the size and type of aircraft?
  5. Does the angle of the girl’s body relative to the blast affect the outcome?
  6. Following on from Question 5, if someone were to lie flat on the ground in jet blast would he/she be blown away?
  7. Present the research findings in graphical format.
  8. Do the same experiments taking the heat generated by the exhaust into account.

Research data
Students, with permission, may be able to place instruments at an airport.  Place your instruments exactly where instructed – you don’t want them to become FOD and endanger an aircraft and its passengers.

Do not attempt to place instruments in the airport property without permission as you may be arrested and spend some time in prison!

Airport Security is a serious matter and airports will not view any trespass as joke or prank!

Jet blast data may be obtained from the engine manufacturer and/or from the controlling bodies; ICAO, IATA, or your local Civil Aviation authority


Using the engine specifications, calculate the jet blast at varying distances behind the engine.

If you have access to a suitable wind tunnel, you can test your calculations.

Learning Objectives
To expose students to actual dangers in airside operations and to develop their situational awareness with regard to jet blast.

Pedagogical Objectives
The lecturer material is organised around a set of exploratory questions that bring out each of the potential failures in the topic.

Target audience    Anyone with an operational or academic interest in safety in Air Transport

Work time        Depends on the depth to which the research is done.

Level    Industry staff or, academically, when airside security appears in the study curriculum

Prior knowledge    Some knowledge of ramp processes

Aim    To illustrate the importance of ramp safety

Length            Not applicable

Published by        Air Transport Research Institute. 22 November 2019

The Air Transport Research Institute does not accept any responsibility for any actions stupid researchers may do in the course of their research!! 


Data source        Open sources

Similar research problems     41

Publication    Present your research findings in the format prescribed by your institution, if you are connected with an institution or else in the format prescribed by the relevant journals.

Consider publishing your work on our Website in addition to any other publication you may chose.  We must warn you that publishing in a recognised journal will earn you more kudos than publishing in this site.

Be aware that publishing your research on this website becomes open source and anyone can access it and they may not give you credit.


Experiment # 27

Topic Aerodynamics

Subject Aircraft design

Ancillary Subject None

Website Menu Activities-Games/Experiments


Make paper aeroplanes of various designs and see design which flies the furthest.

Learning Objectives

To expose students to actual aircraft control surfaces and to develop their knowledge of airliner design and an airliners’ relative fragility.

Pedagogical Objectives

Fun learning

Target audience    Anyone with an operational or academic interest in Air Transport

Work time        As long as you like

Level     Industry staff or, academically, when aviation appears in the study curriculum

Difficulty        Fun

Prior knowledge    Some knowledge of aviation

Aim     To illustrate the aerodynamics of airliner design

Published by        Air Transport Research Institute. 12 November 2019

Data source        Open sources

Similar experiments    28



Research Topics# 15

Topic Commercial aviation

Subject Airliner design

Ancillary Subjects Quality management, airline economics

Website  Menu  Research / Research resources & support / Research questions

Research Questions

The first commercial jet air service took place a long time ago.

  1. Between which two cities did the aircraft fly?
  2. When did it take place?
  3. What aircraft was used?
  4. For how long did the service continue and why was it discontinued?
  5. What was learnt from this air service?
  6. What improvements to design and quality management can you suggest?

Learning Objectives

To expose students to actual operational problems in airline operations and to develop their knowledge of airliner design and an airliners’ relative fragility.

Pedagogical Objectives

The lecturer material is organised around a set of exploratory questions that bring out each of the potential failures in the topic.

Target audience    Anyone with an operational or academic interest in Air Transport

Work time        2 hours

Level     Industry staff or, academically, when Commercial aviation appears in the study curriculum

Difficulty        Moderate

Prior knowledge    Some knowledge of commercial aviation – possibly as a passenger.

Aim     To illustrate the importance of correct airliner design

Published by        Air Transport Research Institute. 6 November 2019

Data source        Open sources

Similar research problems     1, 4, 12


Research Topics# 28

Topic Air transport economics

Subject Airliner design

Ancillary Subject Aircraft design

Website Menu  Research / Research resources & support / Research questions

Research Questions

The first commercial jet air service took place a long time ago.

  1. Between which two cities did the aircraft fly?
  2. When did it take place?
  3. What aircraft was used?
  4. For how long did the service continue and why was it discontinued?
  5. What was learnt from this air service?
  6. What improvements to design took place after the introduction of the service?

Learning Objectives

To expose students to actual operational problems in airline operations and to develop their knowledge of airliner design and an airliners’ relative fragility.

Pedagogical Objectives

The lecturer material is organised around a set of exploratory questions that bring out each of the potential failures in the topic.

Target audience    Anyone with an operational or academic interest in Air Transport

Work time        3 hours

Level     Industry staff or, academically, when Commercial aviation appears in the study curriculum

Difficulty        Moderate

Prior knowledge    Some knowledge of commercial aviation

Aim     To illustrate the importance of correct structural and economic airliner design

Published by        Air Transport Research Institute. 6 November 2019

Data source        Open sources

Similar research problems     22, 54


Alastair Gordon shares his secrets.


  1. Introduction
  2. How do you define a Manager?
  3. Management styles.
  4. Functions of a Manager
  • Introduction


There are literally hundreds of books, Seminars, Lectures, Courses, theories and ideas about Managers.

Many highly qualified people have conducted studies is a wide variety of industries for many years. These studies have revealed many issues, concerning all aspects of Management. Issues such as control functions, communication, planning, management styles, subordinates’ reactions and needs, motivation etc. There are different ideas and thoughts on the best way to manage. Some are very useful, others outdated and yet others limited to certain industries only.

The common issues are:

  1. Management is not an exact science
  2. Management styles need to vary according to the situation and staff.
  3. Managers have a wide range of tasks to perform.

In this course, reference is made to some studies, other information is obtained from first hand experience and observations made of a number of companies.

There are so many different types of Managers and Management styles. One definition of Manager is that he or she is responsible to achieve certain objectives, in the best interests of his Employer, using resources allocated to him or her.

In a sense, all of us are managers to a greater or lesser degree. We manage our own lives, our budgets, our houses, our kids, if we have any, our wives and girlfriends and so on.

A number of surveys were carried out at different times and in various industries. Employees were asked how they felt about managers and how they saw them. The results were very interesting.

  1. The Boss, often a mean person.
  2. A Slave driver.
  3. The person in charge of you who is often unreasonable.
  4. A person one can respect.
  5. A good leader.
  6. A bad leader.
  7. The person who makes you work and gets more money than you, for doing less work.
  8. The person in charge who is running the department.
  9. Some family member of one of the big bosses.

  10. A person who doesn’t know how to treat his workers.

  11. A puppet operated by senior management.

  12. Someone who you can talk to and who listens.

  13. A clown who seems to be in the position just to make your life a misery.

  14. The one person in the Department who is out to take disciplinary action against anyone who doesn’t “toe the line”.

  15. Someone who can lead you and the section in the best possible way.

  16. Makes promises to keep us quiet and doesn’t keep them.

These were just some of the responses, other were also positive and yet others very negative.

2) How do you define a Manager?

A Manager is a person who has been put in charge of a section or department and is responsible to ensure the smooth, efficient and cost-effective operation of that section or department. (That is the short version!)

The manager has been put in charge and he is responsible for a number of things, such as:

3) Management styles.

There are a number of management styles, which can be applied. As mentioned, Management is not an exact science; so, a good manager may apply different management styles on his staff, depending on the situation and the people he is dealing with.

  1. Autocratic style
  2. Democratic style
  3. Participative style

4) Functions of a Manager

A manager has a number of functions. These are listed below. We will expand on and clarify each function individually.

  1. Planning.
  2. Organizing.
  3. Direction.
  4. Control.
  5. Delegation.
  6. Staffing.
  7. Communication.
  8. Representation.
  9. Innovation.
  10. Decision-making.

Only 10 jobs? That’s easy enough!

Let us start, by defining what a Manager, or Supervisor is.

Any ideas?

There are a few definitions of a Manager, some good, some bad. One definition is “The Manager is the person who gets work done by others”

This is a fair description, but entails a lot more than just that.

As a Manager/Supervisor, you are expected to manage your Section/Department Costeffectively and productively.

How do you achieve this?

A Manager’s tasks include:

  1. Planning
  2. Controlling
  3. Leading
  4. Communicating
  5. Training
  6. Delegation & Empowerment.


What do you have to plan?

  1. Your workload
  2. Your staff requirements
  3. Budgets.


What do you have to control?

  1. Staff
  2. Budgets
  3. Resources.


What Leading to you have to do?

Lead your staff.


Communication is vital for a manager; Communicating via the various means one has to communicate:

  1. Downwards to subordinates to ensure that they know what is required of them.
  2. Sideways, to fellow Managers to ensure that they are kept abreast of things, which will affect their sections.
  3. Upwards to Senior Management to ensure that they are fully aware of what is happening in your Section/Department.


It is the responsibility of the Manager to ensure that each staff member in his/her Department/section receives the necessary training to enable them to function efficiently as well as to develop the staff members.

One train of thought is that a Manager should actually work him/herself out of a job! This would by training the staff to the point where they can function efficiently with minimum supervision.

Training can be done in a few ways:

  1. Formal Training carried out by Training Department of colleges etc.
  2. Informal Training.
  3. “On the Job” practical training.

Delegation & Empowerment:

This is a very important aspect of being a good Manager. A Manager has to delegate duties to his subordinates. This is an area where many companies have problems.

There is a difference between being Responsible and Accountable for things. Workers are responsible for the actual work they do, i.e., to carry out their duties correctly and to the best of their abilities. Likewise, the Manager is responsible to ensure that his/her staff are working efficiently and cost effectively. The Manager is also, however, Accountable for the proper running of his/her Department and various aspects such as ensuring safety requirements are met, Budgets are adhered to etc.

The Manager must therefore be aware of these things when delegating work to staff; one can delegate responsibilities a certain level of authority, but not always Accountabilities.

In many instances Managers are not confident enough in themselves, or their staff to delegate any form of authority or decision making, to staff, preferring to do it all on their own. This can work, provided you are an expert in the field and are working with a crew of ignorant staff members! It will also keep you very busy, running around checking up on everyone’s work!

Get to know your staff, what their capabilities are, how far you can trust or rely on them. Empower them where you can, treat staff with dignity and respect and you will get the most out of your staff.


Motivation is something, which many “Clever” people argue about.

Questions, which are argued about, include:

  1. “Can you motivate someone?” – Yes
  2. “Is a person who does nothing, unmotivated?” – Maybe.
  3. “Is Money a good motivator?” – Yes, but not the best.

What are the answers?

Just this:

A sense of accomplishment and recognition for doing a good job are the best motivators.

“We had a lot of problems but we really worked hard to the departure out on time and afterwards, the boss came and called us together and read out the email from the airline thanking us for our hard work. I told the family when I got home and they all hugged me.”

A Question that is often debated is “Can anybody be a Manager?”

The short answer is YES. In fact, if you think about it, most, if not all of us are Managers already! We manage our own lives. Plan, control and manage our Budgets, Plan for the future etc. etc.

There are a number of different Management styles, which are used in various circumstances or situations.

These include:

  1. Autocratic or Dictatorial
  2. Participative
  3. “Democratic”
  4. “Hands on”

Top 10 “Time Wasters”

Procrastination & Excuses

Don’t put things off. They say, “Procrastination is the Thief of Time” very true. It’s easy to make excuses as to why things haven’t been done, but that is all they are “excuses”, not reasons.

Running Errands & Commuting

Plan tasks properly to minimize running unnecessary errands and unnecessary travelling.


Again, plan properly and manage your time so that it is not necessary to rush around trying to get things done. This is when one forgets to do things, or you don’t do them properly.

Computers, Gadgets & the Internet

These are all designed to make life easier and more efficient, allowing a company to work smarter and more effectively. Remember, the computer must work for you; systems must work for you, not you working for the system. The Internet is an incredible source of information. How many people utilise it correctly and fully? How many of us “abuse” the internet facilities by visiting “non-work” related sites and how long do we spend on these sites?

Telephone, E-mail & Mail

Wonderful communication tools! Do we use them wisely and correctly? “Just a quick call to the wife to say Hi” or I feel like a chat with my buddy, or I must arrange for a family get together. A number of companies don’t mind too much if the occasional personal call is made, within reason, but analyses of Phone bills reveals a large percentage of calls made are a) Personal and b). They take up a lot of time, time which should have been used for company business.


A personal favourite of mine!


  1. Do we need to have as many meetings as we have?
  2. Are the meetings structured?
  3. Do they take longer than is necessary?
  4. Do they add value to the company?
  5. How many meaningful decisions are made at meetings?
  6. Are the right people attending these meetings?

Paperwork, Reports & Memos

Review the paperwork that your company is doing. Is all of it necessary? There are certain legal requirements regarding paperwork, but how much of it can we do without? Reports and memos… What reports are required and by whom? Ensure that anyone who requires a report/s gets what he or she needs, nothing more and nothing less. Even if reports are computer generated, they take time to compile and read. The same applies to memos.

Planning & Decision Making

These aspects are very important in any company’s operations and should be done diligently and accurately in order for a company to prosper. Planning and decision-making can be time consuming. How do you save time with these activities? Simple, involve the right people and set deadlines and goals and adhere to them. Use Effective decision-making models and experience.

Entertainment, Television & Radio

These forms of media are not often used in the workplace, but more in one’s personal life. These can also be a source of time wasting. How many of us sit and watch TV. just because it’s on and not because the programme content is interesting? There is nothing wrong in watching TV. and enjoying some entertainment, but do we enjoy everything we watch? Or could we be doing something more constructive?

Just Say Yes

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Think about the consequences of delivering less than expected and missing deadlines. Be honest with people (and yourself) and they will respect you for it. Do NOT accept things that can’t fit into your schedule. At the end of the day, you will have wasted more time trying to do too much in not enough time. When you don’t have the time, or can’t fit something into your schedule simply say “NO”. Prioritise your work according to importance and do it accordingly.


Image courtesy of Airports Company of South Africa


  1. Part of the airport where aircraft engines can be run to full power for testing purposes. The run-up bay is usually surrounded by earth berms or other noise barricades so as not to create noise pollution.
  2. Area in terminal where passengers wait for their flight to be boarded.  Generally have an adjacent food court and  “duty free” shops.
  3. Area in terminal where passengers get baggage weighed and acccepted for a flight and where passengers report for thei flight.
  4. The part of the ramp in which aircraft part. One for each aircraft.
  5. Area in terminal where passengers travel documents are checked before they are allowed into a country.
  6. Part of an airport where aircraft are parked after Arrival and before Departure. Ground handling operations and refueling take place here.
  7. Part of airport to which the public has access.
  8. The large conveyor belt onto which the baggage centre loads arriving passengers luggagewhich goes to the baggage arrivals hall where the passengers wait for their bags to come round on the belt.
  9. Place where fire fighting and other rescue equipment is kept in case of emergency.
  10. The staff, often from the treasury or revenue department of the government which collect duty on imcoming or departing passengers according to the requirement of the law.
  11. Where all the passengers and meets and greeters leave their cars
  12. Large flying machine in which people are transported from one point to another.
  13. Place where GSE is kept ready for use.
  14. A sort of tunnel between the terminal and an aircraft. Movable so that they can accomodate different types of aircraft.
  15. Staff who check that passengers are carrying dangerous goods or weapons.



  1. Place in terminal where passengers recieve their luggage after a flight.
  2. Long road-like structre which aircraft use to take-off and land
  3. Area in terminal where passengers, meeter and greeters and, in landside, visitors can obtain a meal or drinks.
  4. Place where GSE is maintained, repaired or overhauled.
  5. Large vehicle used to transport passengers between terminals and aircraft.
  6. Where all the aircraft are parked.
  7. The people who direct aircraft in the airspace around an airport and on the ground.
  8. Process when departing passengers move from the boarding area onto their aircraft. Boarding passes are check at this point.  Passengers may board through an airbridge or take a bus to the aircraft.
  9. Part of an airport which is used for airport operations as opposed to the public areas of an airport.
  10. Large building where passengers, meeters and greeters, visitors and arport staff are found. Customs and Security are found here.
  11. The place where passengers baggage is sorted, either for loading onto aircraft or to load on the baggage carousel so that the passengers can take them and go on to their destinations.
  12. Tall building near the centre of an airport in which Air Traffic Control is based.
  13. The fence around the airport which is used to prevent access to the airport by people and animals.
  14. A large warehouse or warehouses where cargo for transport to other airports or received from other airports for onward transport to local customers.
  15. Part of an airport where the aircraft magnetic compasses are set.
  16. Shops airside in an airport where “duty free” items may be bought. Duty-free goods are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties, on the requirement that the goods sold will be sold to travelers who will take them out of the country.



Image courtesy of Alastair Gordon

Some points to consider before you start

  1. Airline food is supposed to look palatable, to have at 2 least colours on the plate and not poison passengers.
  2. The meals must look as identical as possible because passengers compare their meals to their neighbours on the aircraft.
  3. The longer the flight, the more likely are the passengers to notice poor quality food.
  4. Airline food is chosen for its reconstituting and reheating properties.
  5. The recipes are so designed that the worst that the cabin crew can do with them is burn or drop a meal.
  6. Airline food is loaded with preservatives, fat and salt; the last two to improve the taste at 30000 feet where the human body loses its tasting ability.
  7. Food is also served to help prevent passengers over-indulging in alcohol and causing a nuisance on board.
  8. The Airline Catering Association represents 64% of the inflight catering market in the world who employee 130,000 employees, have a turnover of 9.9 Bn Euros per annum and produce 4.7 million meals per day.
  9. As one of the world’s leading inflight caterers, dnata serves more than 110 airline customers across the globe, producing over 110 million meals annually. [Ground Support World Wide 26/9/19.]
  10. Food is served on short regional flights, necessary?
  11. EKFC directly employs over 11,000 staff, and operates from Emirates Flight Catering Centre which has a capacity of producing over 225,000 meals daily. The Company provided 55 million meals in 2017, with an average daily meal uplift of 180,000.
  12. Qantas catering kitchens produce over 6,240,000 meals per annum.
  13. Meals are made according to menu cycles; every so often, the menus are changed so that regular travellers do not eat the same meal every time they fly. This requires first-class purchasing and stock control.


Few airlines do their own catering. Most contract the food manufacturing out to specialised caterers around the world. The caterers are really factories with hundreds of workers on assembly lines producing millions of meals each day.

After all the food is fully cooked, it is then blast-chilled to the required 4 degrees Celsius in special refrigerators while it waits to be delivered to the aircraft.

Caterers must deliver the meals just-in-time for a plane’s departure. For example, at Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) at Dubai the catering trollies are transported along a 2.5 km long network by means of an electric monorail system. As they travel through the facility, they are unloaded, cleaned, and individually filled. The automatic system services up to 40 catering carts per aircraft for departure. [Wikipedia] Just-in-time means just that. Catering trollies must not wait on the apron to be loaded; they must be loaded as soon as they arrive so that the food does not spoil.

Before departure; the airlines orders are pulled from the refrigerators, thawed, and loaded in containers together with all the other items needed for passengers to eat the meal – cutlery, serviettes, glasses and so on.

Many catering companies produce meals for more than one airline which may each have their own menus, food types; religious, national, cultural, health and baby and child, crockery, and tray styles. A large widebody may need more than 40,000 individual items for an international flight. Multiply that by hundreds or maybe, thousands, of flights each day. The process requires sophisticated production management.


The quality of the food ingredients is sometimes not of the best but the main problem is the staff who work for the caterers. They are often badly paid; in fact, while we were researching this article, we found 3 reports, in a short period, of catering workers striking for higher pay. Workers claimed that they could not afford to pay for medical aid, which is made worse if there is no or an inefficient national health service. Low staff morale is not conducive to Productivity.

Health and Safety Risks

  1. Shift work is necessary but terrible as anyone who has worked shifts will tell you. Shifts are also not healthy as they really mess with your circadian rhythms and your family life and are generally bad for workers health which means time off of work and the related costs to the caterers and thence to the airline and ultimately to the cost of your ticket.
  2. Sick workers can spread infection.

Health and Safety Risks Countermeasures

  1. Improved shift planning so that workers get time to become used to shift changes.
  2. Sleeping areas for those workers who might have to travel a long way to and from work.
  3. Discourage the “Hero” mentality and give generous sick time off.
  4. Check the health of workers when they come on shift. This may be expensive but it is worth it in higher productivity and safety.

Financial Risks

Any work connected with food has a theft problem. This adds to the cost of the meal to the airline and, ultimately, to your ticket.

Financial Risks Countermeasures

  1. Regular audits conducted by internal audit staff and external auditors.
  2. Document each food ingredient and finished product by recording ingredient received, stored, prepared, cooked, frozen, stored, and dispatched to aircraft; when, by whom and how each of the process steps was performed. If inspection is required then this must also be entered in the production record or job card. If a problem occurs, it’s easy to determine where in the process the failure might have occurred.  This also refers to non-food items such as plates, serviettes and cutlery.


Supply Chain Risks

Catering Companies

They are reliant on suppliers providing safe raw materials.


Airlines rely on local catering companies often in a foreign country with different standards of food safety. You may think that this applies only to “undeveloped 3rd world countries. Not so, for example the European Union is very strict about airlines food, even from the United States, for example.

Supply Chain Countermeasures

Safety, quality and environment rules, drawn from experience, have been codified and should be followed. For example;

IFSA’s (International Flight Services Association) guidelines are intended for suppliers, caterers and airlines, in short, from raw material production to passenger service and include:

  1. Risk assessment.
  2. Food safety programs.
  3. Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points systems.
  4. Regular audits by both internal and external auditors.

Examples of the application of the rules may be found below under each heading.

Catering companies

Catering companies must be very careful about security and food safety. For example, chicken is fully cooked to a minimum core temperature of 74 degrees Celsius and held for 15 seconds and steak is usually seared to a safe temperature by airline caterers unless the airline requests it be left partially uncooked and agrees to sign a waiver.

The food is packed in insulated containers and trucked to airports to be loaded onto the aircraft. The food must be kept cool and loaded onto the aircraft as soon as possible, The in-flight food trollies are usually loaded with dry ice to keep their contents cool throughout the flight.

Safety Risks

  1. Food safety problems can occur in hot countries because it is more difficult to keep the meals cool.
  2. The caterer’s kitchen location is sometimes a risk; it cannot be far from the airport; however, airports are generally in industrial areas which increases the potential risk of pests and vermin infestation.

Safety Risks Countermeasures

  1. Regular audits conducted by quality assurance staff and external auditors.
  2. Ensure strict temperature control along the supply chain which includes: receiving at the caterer, storing, cooking, chilling, assembly, and dispatch to aircraft.
  3. Document each food ingredient and finished product by recording ingredient received, stored, prepared, cooked, frozen, stored, and dispatched to aircraft; when, by whom and how each of the process steps was performed. If inspection is required then this must also be entered in the production record or job card. If a problem occurs, it’s easy to determine where in the process the failure might have occurred.  This also refers to non-food items such as plates, serviettes and cutlery.
  4. Statistical samples of raw materials and finished food should be drawn and tested in the facilities laboratory. In the event of a sample failing the safety and quality tests the entire batch must be withdrawn and scrapped.
  5. Pest control measures.
  6. Strict hygiene procedures must be followed at all times. Staff should wash hands before handling food and wear safety clothes at all times; hats, gloves, jackets and possibly, facemasks. No, makeup, jewellery or open sores in the kitchens.

Financial Risks

Of course, any work connected with food has a theft problem. This adds to the cost of the meal to the airline and, ultimately, to your ticket.

Financial Risks Countermeasures

  1. Regular audits conducted by internal audit staff and external auditors.
  2. Document each food ingredient and finished product by recording ingredient received, stored, prepared, cooked, frozen, stored, and dispatched to aircraft; when, by whom and how each of the process steps was performed. If inspection is required then this must also be entered in the production record or job card. If a stock shortage occurs, it’s easy to determine where in the process the theft might have occurred.  This also refers to non-food items such as plates, serviettes and cutlery.

At the Airport


Getting the correct meals to the correct flight at the right time requires detailed planning and logistics. Not to mention quick reaction times when problems occur. And you know very well what problems can occur on the apron; late arrivals and departures, congestion, GSE breakdowns, and bad weather, to mention a few.

Airport Risks

  1. Food can sometimes be left in the open on the ramp if loading is delayed.

Airport Risks Countermeasures

Airline representatives should be vigilant and take appropriate action.


After arrival the catering equipment and waste must be offloaded, sorted, washed, and recombined into new meal sets. Uneaten food must be disposed of, mainly by incineration. Sometimes, the uneaten food is composted and used to recover Methane gas which can be used in power-generation, for example. Gatwick airport has a waste-to-energy plant, reducing the need for trucks to transport waste to disposal sites.

Arrival Environmental Risks

Bad food waste disposal procedures.

Arrival Environmental Risks Countermeasures

Disposal of uneaten food depends on the laws of the Arrival country. For example, EU health legislation requires that all catering waste arriving from outside EU borders is treated as high-risk and incinerated or buried in deep landfill. Donating uneaten food to charity is illegal in Europe. Sometimes, in other countries, on domestic flights some food like unopened biscuits may be donated to charities.

On the aircraft

The crew is supposed to eat different meals from the passengers and the captain and first officer eat different meals in case one of them becomes ill.

Ensuring food safety without losing the integrity of the meal itself for passengers to enjoy onboard is not easy.

Once on board, the food is heated for about 20 minutes in the aircraft’s convection oven in which a fan blows hot air onto the food – open flames and microwaves aren’t allowed on aircraft. Induction ovens are available enabling food to be cooked more quickly at lower temperatures.

Aircraft Safety Risks

the risk of bacterial contamination may increase because of the lag time between when the food is prepared by the caterer and when it’s served to passengers which is potentially a problem, for example, with long intercontinental flights. Some foods, of course, are more prone to encourage bacterial contamination than others. Food stored on the aircraft at the wrong temperature is the most important cause of food-borne illness on aircraft.

Aircraft Financial Risks

A food safety incident can adversely affect ticket sales.

Safety Risks Countermeasures

  1. Loaded meals must be stored in the aircraft in accordance with strict safety standards such as the correct storage temperature.
  2. Cabin crew must follow hygiene regulations at all times.


At the caterer

Security Risks

  1. Food in preparation may be interfered with by malicious parties and food contaminated with bacteria, poison (including allergens,) dead insects, or foreign objects such as bits of glass.
  2. Contraband may be secreted in food trollies at the caterer.

Security Risks Countermeasures

  1. Physical security.
  2. Access control.
  3. Food inspection.
  4. Food trolley inspection.
  5. Random inspections.
  6. Security personnel in any kitchen where meals are prepared or plated.
  7. Subcontractors should be certified and audited for security and safety procedures.
  8. The caterer should not use temporary labour.
  9. Internal and External audit.

Caterer to Airport

After food is loaded onto trucks, the trucks should be sealed and the sealing documentation handed to and signed for by the driver.

Security Risks

  1. Food in transit may be interfered with by malicious parties and food contaminated with bacteria or poison (including allergens,) dead insects, or foreign objects such as bits of glass.
  2. Contraband may be secreted in food trollies in transit.

Security Risks Countermeasures

  1. Verification of Truck Seal on Arrival at airport
    1. Verify and break the seal on the catering vehicle.
    2. Verify the truck seal against the documentation.
    3. Retention of truck seal forms for audit purposes.

At the Airport

Security Risks

  1. Food in the holding area may be interfered with by malicious parties and food contaminated with bacteria or poison, (including allergens,) dead insects or foreign objects such as bits of glass.
  2. Contraband may be secreted in food trollies in the holding area.

Security Risks Countermeasures

Before departure

  1. Food trollies should be kept in a restricted access holding area until delivery to aircraft.
  2. Physical security.

On Arrival

Cabin crews must secure food trolleys with cable ties at the end of a flight to indicate that the trolley has not been tampered with when it leaves the plane on its way to disposal.

For more on this subject:

  1. Aviation Food Safety, Erica Sheward, IFST AGM November 2015 presentation.
  2. International Flight Services Association. World Food Safety Guidelines for airline catering.
  3. The IATA’s Cabin Operations Safety Best Practices Guide includes a long section on food safety.
  4. Air Babylon, Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous, Bantam Press, ISBNs 053 594 563 and 053 594 571. ATRI Library #: 1233, 1234, 1235.
  5. The Flying Book. Davis Blatner. Allen Lane-The Penguin Press, ISBN 0 713 99513 0. ATRI Library #: 313.


Alastair Gordon explains airside and gives some good advice.

Contact Alastair
Cell:           +27 72 378 5053

Transport is a fascinating industry, it entails moving people and/or goods, from point “A” to point “B” Very simple? Not really.

Whilst each form of transport has its unique quirks and problems, perhaps Aviation is one of the most complex.

Generally, the traveller is not interested, or doesn’t know what is involved, he/she, buys a ticket, often through a travel agent, packs their luggage and presents himself/herself at the airport at the designated time.

It gets a bit “complicated”, having your baggage weighed, getting 20 questions like “Who packed your bags”, are you carrying something for someone else”, “have your bags been out of your sight since you packed them” (Only when they were in the trunk of the car, does that count for anything?) etc.

Then it’s through the metal detectors and you get embarrassed when it warning goes off and you have to show X-rays of the metal pins in your foot, of virtually strip to remove all you metal accessories and belts etc.

After all the procedures, you eventually get on board strap the aircraft to your rear end and wait for the fun to begin, safety announcements people dropping their baggage on your head, disturbing you to get to the window seat when you are sitting on the aisle etc. etc.

Then the flight begins, you may eat, drink, be merry, sleep, eat and eventually get to your destination.

What goes on behind the scenes though, to get you where you want or need to be?

On the “Airside” or ramp, or Apron what ever you want to call it, it is a hive of activity, way before you even arrive at the Airport.

Every thing is run like clockwork. (Well theoretically anyway!) Aviation is by far the safest means of travel and the people involved are mostly perfectionists and passionate about what they do.

Precision work is the order of the day. Aircraft are maintained to very high standards, Pilots are trained and re-trained to highest levels possible, everyone involved strives for perfection. Yet, the simplest thing, such as a missing passenger who was too slow to leave the pub, or a sudden rainstorm, or some other aircraft arriving or leaving late, even a change in Parking bay, can totally upset the applecart.

Time is a major issue in Aviation, where minutes count and delays cause “untold grief and endless sorrow”. Why do “minutes count”? Is this really a critical issue?

Minutes do count and yes, this is a critical issue, some of the busiest airports handle up to 2000 flights a day, using up to three active runways simultaneously. Each flight is allocated a landing or take-off time slot. If any particular flight is late, it loses its time slot and is “Stacked” (it has to circle around a radio beacon) until a new slot can be allocated. ATC (Air Traffic Control) have to do very quick and fancy footwork to reschedule the timeslots. This is complicated by bad weather.

The aircraft that has to be stacked may wait up to 15-20 minutes for a new time slot…. 15-20 minutes of extra fuel burn, if it is a “quick turnaround”, the turnaround time is reduced by 15-20 minutes, so departure will in all probability be delayed (which can snowball if the particular aircraft is schedule for multiple flights on the day.) Low-cost-carriers are especially vulnerable to delays as they really work their aircraft.

For airlines, the most important “Keyword” is “On time Departures”. This is one of the major performance measurements used in the game. (I believe personally, that “On time arrivals” are more important!)

In order to achieve the magical “On time Departure”, all the involved parties are running to very tight schedules. Many Handling companies and Airlines have implemented a system commonly known as a “PTS” (Precision Time Schedule), there may be other names or acronyms for it but the basic principle is the same.

How does this work? In theory, very simple, we know how long it takes to prepare an aircraft for departure, so we work backwards from the scheduled departure time. If it takes two hours to prepare for flight, the aircraft must be “on Base” and ready to load, 2 hours before flight time. These times differ depending on:

  1. Aircraft type and size.
  2. Type of flight, i.e. departure, arrival or “turnaround” (i.e. in and out)

In practice however, it does get a bit more complicated. Who are the role players and how do they fit into the picture?

  1. The flight crew, pilots and cabin crew.
  2. The catering Company.
  3. The fuel company.
  4. The aircraft maintenance staff.
  5. Check-in staff.
  6. Baggage department
  7. Cargo Section.
  8. Mail section.
  9. Weight and balance Department.
  10. Aircraft loading crews.
  11. Hygiene Dept.
  12. Airside Passenger Transport (Where required)
  13. Air Traffic control.

To name the major “players” involved.

  1. Flight crews
    1. Have to report on time for pre-flight briefings, weather reports etc.
    2. They need to be at the aircraft in good time to do their pre-flight checks.
  2. The Catering company
    1. Must ensure that the required quantities of meal/refreshments are prepared on time.
    2. Must deliver the meals/refreshments to the aircraft on time, also ensuring that there is sufficient time to “Dress the aircraft”
  3. The Fuel Company
    1. Ensure that the fuel bowser is serviceable and at the aircraft on time to provide the requested amount of fuel.
  4. The Aircraft Maintenance staff
    1. Must be on time to carry out their pre-flight checks and to co-ordinate fuelling.
  5. Check-in staff
    1. Must have their counters open in time to check passengers in per schedule.
  6. Baggage Department
    1. Must be prepared and ready to accept baggage from check-in desks on time and to load baggage into containers or baggage wagons and send the packed baggage to the aircraft on time.
  7. Cargo Section
    1. They need to ensure that the cargo scheduled for the flight is ready, correct and where relevant packed securely and sent to the aircraft on time.
  8. Mail Section
    1. They need to ensure that the mail scheduled for the flight is ready packed securely and sent to the aircraft on time.
  9. Weight and balance
    1. They have to be informed of the passenger, baggage, cargo and mail loads timeously in order to calculate the load and weight balance for the aircraft and prepare a “Trim sheet” for the loading crews (This sheet will tell the loading crews how to load the aircraft to ensure the aircraft is properly balanced)
  10. The Aircraft Loading crews
    1. Have to be at the aircraft by the stipulated time to:
    2. Position any handling equipment.
    3. Commence loading per Trim sheet.
    4. Supervisor has to also co-ordinate the various functions such as catering, fuelling etc. to ensure that the various section do not get in each other’s way!
  11. Hygiene Department
    1. Must ensure that Toilet and water servicing is carried out as required, on time.
  12. Airside Passenger Transport
    1. They must ensure that there are sufficient buses available at the departure gates, on time to transport passengers to the aircraft for boarding.
  13. ATC
    1. Must have flight plans and authorise the aircraft’s departure.

Let us take the easiest example. The first flight out in the morning. The aircraft spent the night in the hangar being serviced and repaired and prepared for the next day’s work.

There is often a debate about who the most important person/s are in this process; naturally, it is a good feeling to be a “Key player” in the process!

The loading Supervisor is usually the main co-ordinator, with the PTS form. As mentioned, the PTS works “backwards” on a “count down” system. Given all the relevant information, including the scheduled Departure time, the Supervisor calculates the time schedule for each of the critical functions/operations, such as:

  1. Time the cargo must arrive at aircraft.
  2. Time mail must arrive
  3. Time first baggage must arrive.
  4. Time last baggage must arrive.
  5. First passengers at aircraft
  6. Last passengers at aircraft.

All the times are recorded for analysis and “Shaming and blaming” in the event of a departure delay.

All the data is coded and captured at a central, “neutral” point (OCC: Operations Control centre) the data is then analysed and all delays are allocated to the “guilty party”. In many cases, the reasons for the delays are disputed for obvious reasons. Penalties imposed by the airlines for late departures, is one of the reasons. The penalty “system” is applied virtually across the board, all IATA member airlines, are also subject to penalties for Departure delays, calculated and “charged” at a rate per minute delayed.

Service level agreements form an integral part of the Handling contracts, with penalties incurred for non-conformance or negative deviations from agreed to standards.

Performance levels, which are measured and form a part of the “SLA’s” between Carriers and GH Companies, include:

  1. On time departures.
  2. Baggage delivery times. (i.e. time to deliver the first and last bags to the Baggage carousels) (For arriving aircraft)
  3. Baggage not loaded on aircraft. (Transit and Departing flights)
  4. Incorrectly routed baggage (Passenger in London…. Baggage in Hong Kong)
  5. Lost baggage.
  6. Baggage pilferage.
  7. Damage to baggage and Cargo.
  8. Damage to aircraft.

Over and above the SLA’s, which the client/s may demand of the service provider, Internal Quality/performance measurements should be developed and implemented to monitor the company’s performance. The question is… What performance/s should we be measuring? Very simple, obviously we need to be monitoring the SLA performance requirements we are contractually bound to measure up to. There are, however, other performance parameters, which can affect the SLA requirements, which need to monitored.

What should we monitor and how? Any aspect of the company, which could negatively impact the “Bottom Line” should be measured. “If it’s measurable and you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Internal Quality/Performance measurements, which an effective Ground Handling Company could/should implement, over and above those imposed by the Airlines/Carriers/Clients above, would include:

  1. Overtime worked:

    Efficiency of Planning and scheduling staff/systems. Are we scheduling staff properly? Do we contingency plans if things go wrong?)

    Manpower requirements/staff complement. (Do we have enough staff in the various skills)

    Are we utilising staff efficiently (Are staff members allowed to develop to their full potential?)

  1. Equipment failures:
    1. Efficiency of Maintenance staff. (Are staff members working “Smart” rather than hard?)
    2. Staff training/competency. (Are our staff members adequately trained to carry out the work required?)
    3. Adequacy of maintenance facilities Workshop, tooling, equipment etc. (Is the workshop properly equipped? Or do we need to either improve the facilities, or outsource certain work?)
    4. Adequate/inadequate Maintenance programs. (Do we have maintenance programmes and if so, are they effective and are they being used?)
    5. Age of Equipment. (Is our equipment old and becoming redundant/unreliable/past economical repair)
    6. Correct use of equipment. (Are we using the “right tool for the right job”?)
    7. Adequate quantities of equipment. (Do we have enough equipment to adequately service our clients and still ensure that maintenance can be carried out as required and not deferred due to equipment shortages.
  1. Number of Accidents on the ramp
    1. Efficiency of Training Department. (Do we have qualified Trainers/educators/facilitators… call them what you will!)
    2. Effectiveness of Training courses. (Are the courses we present, comprehensive, current and understandable?)
    3. Quality of operating staff. (Have we employed the right staff for the job, i.e. avoiding the “Square peg in a round hole” syndrome?)
    4. Motivation levels of staff. (Are staff sufficiently motivated to take heed and use the information learnt on the courses?)
    5. Equipment condition (This would also tie in with “Equipment failures” above) (Is our equipment maintained in a safe working condition, with all safety features functional?)
    6. Safety awareness of staff. (Is there a high level of safety awareness amongst staff?)
    7. Do we have auditors, checking on safe operations?
  1. Feedback from clients ##
    1. Complaints for poor or sub-standard service
    2. Compliments for good service provided.
  1. Budgetary Performance
    1. Is budgeting being carried out correctly?
    2. Is costing realistic?
    3. Is Purchasing Department effective?
    4. Is the company profitable?
    5. Are Heads of Departments competent?
    6. Monitoring of monthly operating costs.
  1. Disciplinary records.
    1. What is the rate of disciplinary hearings/charges?
    2. Where and what are the problem areas?
  1. Staff Matters
    1. Number of staff reporting sick.
    2. Staff failing to report for duty.
    3. Staff turnover.
  1. Goal Setting
    1. Set realistic, achievable goals for all departments, in conjunction with department heads and monitor their achievements against the set parameters.

##Not always a good measurement, as clients tend to only give negative feedback!

If a company is serious about its Internal Performance measurement systems, they would analyse the parameters as outlined above, using an effective method, such as “The 5 Whys” system, applying it correctly in order to get to the root cause of problems, so they can be addressed and rectified.

Common problems, which occur, are:

  1. Supervisors are selective in what is reported, to cover their mistakes, incompetence or shortcomings.
  2. Issues are not investigated thoroughly and incorrect decisions are made, which results in “Treating the symptom, not the problem”.
  3. Information is “manipulated” to reflect a distorted, but more favourable situation.
  4. “Blame shifting” takes place to hide incompetence or failings of one Department or person.
  5. Information or data is gathered, but not used to best advantage.
  6. The Operating “atmosphere/environment” is one of threats and intimidation which results in “Defensive” attitudes of staff, rather than a spirit of “openness” and honesty.
  7. Meaningless reports are generated, or alternately, meaningful reports are generated, but are not afforded the required level of attention.
  8. It is a bit of a contentious issue, but I believe that the “Ground level” staff should be consulted in compiling the systems, as they are the people directly involved in the operations and can provide valuable inputs into how to improve operations,

Developing efficient Performance Measurement systems/parameters is not very difficult at all. The problem lies in the successful implementation and maintenance of the systems!

As mentioned earlier, the Aviation industry is fascinating, with many variables, which can and do disrupt what theoretically should be an almost perfect operation. An applicable cliché would be “It is not what happens to you in life that is important, but how you deal with it, is what is important”.

This is applicable in this instance. What do we need in order to effectively deal with the issues involved in Aircraft Ground Handling?

  1. Implement meaningful performance systems, measuring critical performance areas.
  2. Set Realistic and achievable goals or targets.
  3. Review these goals and targets periodically, adapting them as circumstances change.
  4. Ensure that the stakeholders concerned (Ops staff, Maintenance staff etc.) are made fully aware of these goals and how to achieve them as well as the implications, to the company as a whole of not meeting them. This should be communicated in an “informative” or “educational” way and not as “A stick to beat anyone up with” way!
  5. Ensure accuracy of information provided/captured.
  6. Identify weaknesses in systems or programmes and more importantly, act promptly to rectify such problems.
  7. Ensure that the System developers and analysts are suitably qualified to function effectively.
  8. Once agreed to, approved and implemented, these performance systems must be sustained/maintained.
  9. Provide decent and regular feedback/communication regarding performance results, achievements and shortfalls.

As with many companies, there is a wide spectrum of staff, ranging from “Semi-Skilled” through to highly qualified professional staff with degrees. This must be borne in mind in such a company and the management styles should be adapted accordingly. One cannot compare it to, say a firm of accountants, where one is dealing with “Professional” people who require minimal managing. A fine balance has to be struck in managing a company such as a Ground Handling company; one needs to create an atmosphere of trust and transparency, while at the same time, implementing checks and balances to ensure that staff are working efficiently and effectively. Another common “trap” which people fall into, is that issues are “personalised” creating the perception that this is a way to discredit individuals or “work them out of the system. The focus should start with the “Systems”, looking for weakness or shortcomings.

The are systems and methods learnt in places of higher education which will work well in this environment, but it should be borne in mind that there is a cast difference between theory and practice. For instance, with all due respect to Engineers, a study was once carried out on the aerodynamics of the humble Bumblebee. All its relevant parameters were feed into a computer and an analysis was done, measuring its wing area, size and shape and weight of the body, etc. etc. The computer results were that this “device” couldn’t fly! Well fortunately or unfortunately, nobody told the Bumblebees this and they do happen to fly pretty well!!

It is a fact of life is that people enjoy living in a “Comfort zone” (Don’t we all?) and a finely tuned balance between Trust, communication, Spirit of Teamwork, understanding, compromise and common goals is necessary at times, to lift staff out of the comfort zone to ensure the successful running of such an operation.

Reference:  Business & Commercial Aviation, June 2019,  Why checklists are not completed. p30.  ATRI library.

Aircraft weight integrity. Business & Commerical Aviation, July 2018. p51.  Available in ATRI library