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It’s not just the pilots and cabin crew who look after your safety.The airport will have its own security, ground handling and customs teams who work in coordination with the airlines but act independently. Although not an integral part of Air Traffic Control there are people responsible for keeping the taxiways and runways clear of rubbish, animals and debris. In most of those jobs, extensive training is required before the job can be done to the standards required by the Aviation Authorities. The flight planning, performance and meteorological knowledge required of a flight planner are way beyond that needed by a pilot. For international airlines, a 24/7 service for aircraft performance is needed to ensure that an aircraft operating to or from airports or runways which are not in the pilots’ manuals, can do so safely. In many ways, the ground crews are the unsung heroes of commercial flying. Their responsibilities go beyond checking in and tagging your luggage. Behind the scenes of any airline, operation are many teams of support staff. Operationally the ‘backroom boys’ are responsible for flight planning, crew rostering, aircraft allocation, aircraft support, transport co-ordination, engineering support, passenger handling, gate allocation, training administration, aircraft performance, catering staff and countless other duties. Flight briefing information for crews comes from many sources and is sifted, co-ordinated and then presented to the crew for easy reading and used when they endorse and accept the flight plan. They will bring to the attention of the crew any areas of significant weather and areas where the air temperature may be lower than the freezing point of the fuel so that the captain can make adjustments to the cruising altitude. Meanwhile, friends, relations and drivers need to know arrival times and the time they can expect to see the people they are meeting. All this information has to flow between airlines, air traffic control and terminal managers. Catering suppliers will need to meet aircraft to unload then reload fresh food according to the passengers’ requests to the airline. At the departure point, the check-in staff will be responsible to the aircraft dispatcher who co-ordinates the payload requirements with the take-off performance available. In countries where the airport may be several thousands of feet above sea level, the reduced air pressure is sufficient to affect the performance of the aircraft. Therefore it is vital to know the exact take-off weight so that the pilots can set the exact amount of power required for take-off from that particular airfield and runway. The dispatcher prepares the ‘Ship’s Papers’ which record all this information for acceptance and approval by the aircraft captain. Then the flight crew becomes involved with more ground crew teams, the push back engineer, the departure engineer, airline departure control and then air traffic control, and the plane hasn’t moved yet. Be confident that everyone in the ground crews is not only working for an on-time departure but with your safety as their main concern. Thousands of people, mostly unseen, working to keep your flight secure, on time but most of all, SAFE.
Safety is the number one consideration for everyone in the industry.Best wishes, Captain Keith
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