The ultimate mantra in the aviation industry is “the plane is not making any money while it is on the ground”. Thus airlines strive hard to keep their aircrafts in the sky for as long as possible henceforth keep aircrafts grounded for as minimum time as possible and reduce the turnaround time of their aircrafts.
This article comprises of the following 7 parts:
- What is TAT?
- What is the aim of TAT?
- Factors to ensure minimum TAT
- What are the tasks carried out during TAT
- Inter dependability of all tasks
- TAT Management
1. What is TAT?
The turnaround time (TAT) of an aircraft is the time that passes from landing until take off for a new flight i.e the time between chocks on and chocks off.
While stationary on the ground, the airline is not making any revenue with its plane, rather is incurring other costs. Examples include:
- Airport fees
- Leasing costs or depreciation
- Some fixed costs which can be partially attributed to each flight.
During the process of turnaround, the resources of the airline and the airport involved are efficiently mobilised to get the aircraft set up for its next journey in the shortest possible time.
2. What is the aim of TAT?
The process of turnaround comprises of the planning and handling of tasks related to on ground operation of the aircraft to ensure the cleanliness, safety and efficiency of the next flight. Therefore, the turnaround is one of the most important phases for airport as well as aircraft operators, directly affecting whether or not passengers will enjoy an optimal experience.
The process of turn around involves:
- The correct coordination of all of the resources involved to ensure the punctuality of the flight and keep the passengers waiting for as little as possible.
- Impeccable maintenance, so that the journey is free of incidents and the plane lands on time at its next destination.
3. Factors to ensure minimum TAT
The efficiency of the ground handling process, especially for the expeditious aircraft turnaround, mainly depends on issues like the availability of:
- Amount of equipment, positioning
- Adaptability to traffic peaks
- Work tasks efficiency
- Meteorological conditions
- Compatibility of ground handling staff and equipment.
On the other hand, the efficiency of aircraft turnaround relies on how all these simultaneous tasks and conditions are managed in an effective and coordinated way.
4. What are the tasks carried out during TAT
To complete a turnaround phase efficiently, it is necessary to carry out several actions simultaneously. The following steps must be completed before an aircraft can fly again.
4.1 Chocking of the aircraft
After landing, the aeroplane should move to its assigned parking position. Once there, it will be immobilised and choaked and safety cones will be placed around the aircraft by the operators in charge of ground handling.
4.2 Disembarkation of passengers and crew
Passengers will then leave the aircraft through the established doors (normally through just one of them depending on the airline procedures) to access the passenger stairs and then passenger buses or aerobridges that will take them to the terminal building.
4.3 Cabin cleaning
As the passengers leave the aircraft through one of the doors, the professionals in charge of cleaning the cabin will enter through the other to remove rubbish, sanitise the bathrooms and replace the consumables.
4.4 Loading and ramp handling
At this point, the operators in charge of loading and ramp handling come into action. Baggage and goods will be unloaded and transported to the respective baggage carousel and warehouses from where they may be handed over to the passenegers.
4.5 Airline and aircraft inspection and SPOM
The Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPM) of the aircraft manufacturer and the airline itself determines the safety technical check routine to be followed during the turnaround time to verify that the aircraft is in good condition to fly.
4.6 Aircraft refueling
The aircraft’s tanks must also be filled with the necessary fuel to ensure that it arrives safely to its next destination.
Meanwhile, the catering service will provide food and beverages for passengers on the new route.
4.8 Loading of baggage and cargo
After the aircraft hold has been emptied, the handling agents re-fill it with baggage and cargo for the next flight.
4.9 Embarkation of passengers
One of the last operations of turnaround time will be the boarding of passengers. While the handling service has been completing all of the previous tasks, the crew and pilots have had to focus on confirming the route details and the number of passengers, as well as carrying out their own security checks inside the aircraft.
4.10 Towing of aircraft
Finally, and often helped by a push-back trailer, the aeroplane will abandon its parking position and prepare to commence the taxiing manoeuvre in order to access the take-off runway.
5. Inter dependability of all tasks
All these departments work together in an interactive way during aircraft turnarounds to accomplish the different processes. Most of these tasks depend on or build upon another task. For instance, before the cleaning finishes, the passengers cannot be boarded, or before the crew boarding, fuelling cannot be completed.
Most of the tasks in turnaround are sequenced. Cleaning has to wait for disembarkation, boarding has to wait for crew to arrive and cleaning to be completed, duty free goods has to wait for cabin crew to be onboard, fuelling has to be started after the disembarkation and has to be finished before the embarkation of passengers, and so on. Consequently, if the crew arrives late, loading of onboard duty free will be late; if duty free is late, then boarding will be late; if cleaning takes longer than scheduled, boarding will be late; if boarding is late, the seating will be late; if loading of the bags is late, closing the doors of airplanes will be late – and as a result, push back of aircraft will be late.
In the preparation process of aircraft, sometimes things may not be conducted as planned. In turnaround, arrival time of the airplane is very important. Limited time for turnaround is reduced more with late arrival, which is also called reactionary delays‘. On the other hand, aircraft turnaround is the only tool for recovering the arrival delays and decreasing the impact of reactionary delays for the following flight leg. Late arrival of the airplane can be covered by efficient ground handling and provide punctual departure. Airlines have a defined ground time in each airport. If an airline‘s operation exceeds the ground time, it is called a delay, even though airlines have 15 minutes additional time not to be announced as delayed. This can be called ―buffer time, and gives a chance to the airline to still be able to cover up for the delay. Buffer time also enables the ground handler to complete the aircraft turnarounds within this additional 15 minutes.
6. TAT Management
The duration of the turnaround process of an aircraft usually ranges from about half an hour for low-cost flights to an hour and a half for large aeroplanes and premium airlines. For a traditional airline, this is usually about an hour.
With the correct turnaround management, it is possible to reduce this time and optimise the actions involved in the ground handling of the aircraft. This ensures punctuality and adherence to slots allocated to the airlines.
6.1 How to speed up turnaround?
There are some interesting ways in which the process can be expedited and optimized.
Ryanair a private ULCC of Europe and one of the largest ULCC of the world having a TAT of 25 minutes does not have a seatback pocket .
Back in 2004, removal of seat back pockets greatly reduced the time for which the Ryanair aircraft stayed on the ground. That’s is because it takes more time to clean an airplane with seatback pockets.
6.2 Technology to reduce TAT
Technology could prove very useful in optimizing the process too. Well-integrated, technology-driven ground-handling processes create an overview of all actions happening around the aircraft, helping reduce turnaround times and delays. A well-scheduled action plan is also crucial, as it allows crews to perform multiple tasks simultaneously in an organized manner, gaining valuable seconds.
Well not always technology helps to reduce TAT. Sometimes useage of technology like PPB increases TAT because its extension and retraction consumes time whereas use of Passenger bus reduces considerable amount of time.
Well dear readers we are the ones who consume maximum time of TAT being the passengers because we need to embark and disembark the aircraft the way the airline demands us to so that the weight of the aircraft is evenly distributed.
Using both rear and front doors can help to shorten both processes by almost a half. The two-door efficiency is a contributing factor to why many low costs so rarely use sky bridges or PBB.
Boarding segmentation strategies are usually applied towards wide-body huge aircrafts like B747 or A380, where airlines split the passengers into zones and board them accordingly. For narrow bodies small aircrafts like A320, such segmentation might not be as beneficial; however, looking for boarding efficiencies is needed.
According to Boeing: Since 1970, the actual speed at which passengers boarded an airplane has slowed by more than 50 percent, down to as low as 9 passengers per minute, mainly due to the ever-increasing amount of carry-on items brought in by the passengers.
A solution might be segmenting the passengers not by only by zone, but by also row, allowing window passengers to enter as first ones, followed by middle-seated ones and completing the process by aisle-seated.
The synchronization of ramp activities provides smoothness in operations and leads other tasks in the chain to be performed without any defect. To provide this synchronization, there is a responsible person in ramp who may be an operation staff (ramp coordinator) or airline representative. This person acts as an orchestra chief and controls all the tasks at the same time. The duties of operation ramp coordinator can vary according to the airline and airport strategy devoted to the subject.
Aircraft turnaround is performed in almost only one hour, and consequences of problematic operations have a big impact on the rest of the operations which the airport and airline have to proceed with.
So now you have understood the efficiency of an aircraft turnaround operation that is the capability of an airline to execute the required aircraft turnaround services within available service time and to deliver a punctual departure flight.
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