The Learning Curve

Over two years since its inaugural flight, ground operations for the mammoth Airbus A380 are still being revised.

However, the aircraft’s presence at inaugural destination, Los Angeles International (LAX), hasn’t been universally welcomed. Earlier in the year it was reported that only the huge slump in traffic as a result of the economic downturn prevented a tarmac gridlock when the A380 was in town. The aircraft’s requirements force a number of operational restrictions, and the concern is this will cause severe congestion at LAX as traffic levels return.

Lewis admits ground handling procedures have had to change as a result of introducing an all-new aircraft like the A380. “These will no doubt evolve further as we become more experienced in handling the aircraft under varying conditions, including managing multiple aircraft,” he says.

The introduction of multiple overlapping schedules has already had some impact on training and rostering, but Lewis says Qantas has been very successful in managing these. “At each of our A380 destinations, the GSE procured to service the aircraft was selected to be scalable to an increasing A380 fleet size,” he reveals. “We are confident that the introductions of more Qantas A380s will not cause any additional complexity or risk to the ground handling operations.”

According to Lewis, the one challenge for all A380 carriers is the preparation of sufficient alternate ports to turnaround the A380 in the event of a diversion. This may involve investment by ground handlers to ensure the future-proofing of their equipment.

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