jueves, 16 de diciembre de 2010


My workplace is a busy runway with around 1260 aircraft movements every day, carrying passengers from all over the world. The airport´s eight duty managers airside are responsible for upholding Heathrow´s aerodrome licence, and ensuring our passengers can get to where they are going.

Our 85-strong airside team carries out daily inspections to ensure the highest standards are being met. Without these, the Civil Aviation Authority wouldn´t let Heathrow operate any flight. So, I think our jobs come with a fair bit of responsibility.

The duty managers airside work 12,5 hour shifts, days and nights - there´s got to be someone here 24/7. During the day, on top of all the inspections, we ensure the smoothest possible running of airside operations. Every morning, all the airside departments meet at my office, which is based between the two runways. Motor transport, airside engineering, stand allocation, the airport fire service... everyone informs each other what work they have planned for the day so we can join everything up and avoid problems.

On nightshifts, airside transforms into a building site. Currently, the major project is the new Terminal 2, which is being built on the old Terminal 2 site and is being designed to serve 20 million passengers a year.

Two big external factors can hinder airside operations. The first is birds. We have a dedicated team to carry out bird deterrence, habitat management and dispersal duties. If they see a bird, they will play the call of that breed over a loud speaker, which alerts it to danger and scares it off. If there is a flock of birds in the sky, our team fires pyrotechnic car tridges to disperse them. Only as a last resort do we use lethal means. We prefer measures such as cleaning rubbish and planting long grass - birds don´t like it because they can´t see predators coming.

Our other hazard is the weather. We´re as prepared as we possibly can be for all kinds of weather. We subscribe to the Met Office OpenRunway service, an online forecast that breaks down every element of weather every hour. But still, strong winds do slow down aircraft. Fog and mist force air traffic control to put flow restrictions on aircraft. And snow and ice affect the aircraft and runway surface.

Our aim is to not let the snow lie on the runway surface in the first place, so we apply anti-icing fluid before the snow falls, and it lowers the temperature at which the snow will settle. But sometimes it comes down too quickly. Then the motor transport department sends out their 68-strong fleet of de-icers, snow blowers, gritters, ploughs and tractors to deal with it.

Despite being reduced to just one runway during the terrible weather last winter, Heathrow did manage to stay open the entire ti,e. What actually delayed the flights was that the planes themselves needed de-icing, and this can be tricky as it needs to be carried out very near to a plane´s departure.


No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario