Why do you have to wait?
Did you ever wonder why, after check-in and security clearance, you have to wait until you can board your plane? Why can’t you take a plane as you take a bus?
Well, as soon as a passenger plane arrives at the tarmac – at the gate through which you will board it – tens, if not hundreds, of specialized personnel start frantically servicing the plane to prepare it for its next take-off. Unless any other means of transport, airplanes undergo meticulous security checks and preparation to assure their next flight will be safe. That’s why flying is the most secure means of transport…
The maintenance procedures are thoroughly performed according to the International Air Transport Association’s Airport Handling manual. They can be performed by airport services, airline services or outsources to specialized companies.
First the aircraft is guided to its gate by a “Follow-Me” vehicle, a safety employee visually communicating with the pilots (that is called aircraft marshalling) or towed by special vehicles. Once parked, while the passengers from the former flight disembark and their luggage and cargo are unloaded, the plane having shut down its engines gets tied to a special power supply vehicle, while the cabin service starts to provide the next passengers with best comfort. The cabin is carefully cleaned, consumables replenished, and washable items like pillows and blankets are changed, and wastewater is retrieved.
Catering services meanwhile empty the plan of the meals and trolleys from the former flight, and replace them with fresh meals for the passengers and staff during the next flight. While aircraft engineers and technicians do the scheduled security checks to engines, instruments and steering systems of the aircraft, the field operation service coordinates the activity of the various services; the plane has to be refuelled, the air conditioning checked and prepared for the next flight by a special vehicle, and in cold weather conditions the wings have to be de-iced to assure a secure take-off.
Once all these services have been performed according to a strict schedule – providing maximum security to the passengers while trying to cut down in time not to bother them waiting – the air gates or stairs are coupled to the ready aircraft, the next passengers are cleared to board the plane and their luggage – in addition to air cargo – is loaded for the next destination. For passengers with special needs, specific vehicles lifting the passenger with his or her wheelchair into the cabin are also made ready. The flight staff meanwhile registers the passengers who boarded the plane, and make sure there is no deviation from their lists. Finally, the airplane doors are closed, air start units – special vehicles as well – prepare the engines to be started, and the whole dance of special vehicles leaves the plane – to the next one. Finally, after the pilots received the permission for taxiing to the take-off runway from the control tower, air marshallers indicate the plane it is rolling path and you are ready for a fantastic new adventure that is every single flight in an airplane….
Next time you are waiting to board a plane and feel time is lasting long, just try to remember all these activities what are being done for your comfort and your safety, that hundreds and thousands of people gain a living from these services, and that finally – taking into consideration all the effort that has to be made for a flight – the costs of flying are very low