The Capacity Challenge: Keeping Up With Demand for Qualified Technicians (Part 2)

The Capacity Challenge: Part 2

On the tarmac at Miami International Airport (MIA), the captain has announced a ground stop for Minneapolis (MSP). Air traffic control at MSP is managing 70 landings an hour and needs to get a little more space between arrivals.

I’m on an A-320 with 149 other passengers. A bit of quick napkin math, assuming the average number of passengers on those MSP-bound planes is 150, there are 10,500 travelers who will land at MSP in a single hour.

These passengers have one thing in common. They all have the same expectation about their travel experience:

  • Their plane will arrive on time.
  • While they are on the plane, on the ground, or in the air, they expect to experience a temperature-controlled environment and to be reasonably comfortable.
  • There will be plenty of room to accommodate their carry-on bags and, if not, someone will take them and make sure they get to their final destination.
  • If they dropped off a bag at the curb or at the desk inside, they expect their bag to arrive at the carousel of their final destination within a few minutes of their arrival in baggage claim, regardless of the number of stops and plane changes they’ve had during their trip.

All of these will happen regardless of weather conditions or air traffic.

All 10,500 people who land in MSP in that single hour expect 100% success and have no idea how complex the system is that delivers that experience.

Each of those 70 planes will likely “turn” and head out to another destination. Each will land, pull up to the gate, unload, and get cleaned, restocked, reloaded and pushed back to take off.

When a plane lands and pulls up to the gate, equipment that GSE technicians maintain can impact the customers’ expectations:

  • The jet bridge or passenger stairs, including ADA compliant accessories, moves to the plane to safely allow the passengers to unload and load.
  • The lift truck carrying the cabin service crew moves to the plane and lifts up to gain access so the cleaning crew can then do its work.
  • The Air Conditioning Units on the ground start working to provide heated or cooled air for the cabin.
  • The catering truck moves to the plane and lifts up to gain access to the galleys so the crew can do its work.
  • The baggage tractors pull the baggage carts up to the plane to be loaded with baggage.
  • The belt loader pulls up to the plane to be positioned to unload the plane of its baggage and cargo.
  • The valet cart is positioned to collect carry-ons that won’t fit in the overhead compartments. Bags from the cart are put on the belt loader, too.
  • The water cart/truck pulls up to the plane to allow for water service of the plane.
  • The lavatory service cart/truck pulls up to the plane to allow for lav service of the plane.
  • A fuel truck/cart approaches the plane to begin the refueling process.
  • A different set of baggage carts are loaded under the airport with the bags headed to this plane.
  • Different baggage tractors move through the airport and collect all of the baggage that needs to be on this particular plane.
  • The jet bridge or stairs move away from the plane.
  • Using a Ground Power Unit, the pilot restarts the engines in preparation for departure.
  • A push back tractor then pushes the plane away from the gate area and out to the taxiway.
  • If necessary, the plane is deiced prior to take-off.

If your battery goes dead on your car or you get a flat tire or the car has some other mechanical failure, you, your passengers and your possessions aren’t going to get where you were going on time. If any of the mechanical touches of a plane’s turn fail, just like your car, that plane and those passengers or their luggage aren’t going to get to their destinations on time as expected.

Global Aviation Services has about 200 GSE mechanics serving over 65 airports. Each knows that any mechanical failure during any one of those 16 touches of an airplane’s turn will directly impact the passenger experience. The culture required to be successful is one of quality maintenance done with a sense of urgency (a unique sense that is part of being in the aviation industry).

We also must address …

(Continue reading for Part 3)