As readers of my blog surely know by now, if I have a few hours to kill at an airport, I spend the time watching ramp operations. Some people – I suppose, a lot of people – would be spending that time shopping or getting food or a drink in the bar. To each his/her own. I find airport ramps fascinating, in part, because for all the talk of standardization, I have yet to find an airport whose ramp operations match those at another airport. There’s always some variation, seems to me.
Last week, with five hours to kill before my next flight, I had a good bit of time to observe the ramp at London Heathrow Airport. I know I’ve mentioned how impressed I’ve been with their ramp side operations. They did not disappoint.
One of the things I noticed right away was that there were more people on the ramp to “protect” the aircraft than I typically observe at U.S. airports. For example, the jet bridge at the gate I was watching had three people, including the jet bridge driver. Often in this country, I see jet bridges operated with just one driver, even when there are no cameras to assist. As we all know, jet bridges can and do damage aircraft and injure people on the ground. (Has anyone done a cost comparison recently of the cost of aircraft/equipment damage/worker injuries vs. the cost of hiring a few more people?)
Another observation that impressed me: an articulated mechanism with wheels used to assist in bringing ground power to the aircraft, as opposed to dragging cables 20 or 30 feet. In addition, having the cable protected inside this mechanism also keeps the cable from being run over and damaged.
All in all, if this is typical of ramp operations at LHR, it’s pretty impressive.