Like SATS, Dnata has working groups formed both internally and externally to analyze and fine tune handling requirements. "When identified, those specifications will be shared with our terminal consultant and group equipment suppliers," says Lewis.
"Given that we will have worked with our partners in preparing ourselves, introduction will be smooth," believes Griffith. "I don't see a huge difference from today's B777-200 at 434 seats or B747 at over 400 seats. The A380 will have an additional 150-200 passengers and with possibly an upper level loading bridge boarding/de-boarding should be as quick as today."
Emirates itself is working closely with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and the airport on the development of its own terminal and satellite which should be able to handle comfortably the A380.
"That facility will be available by the delivery date of the first aircraft," confirms Griffith. "Modifications to the existing terminal will be made on certain parking stands to handle the A380 of other airlines."
Dnata is currently also examining possibilities for the "high speed safety conscious loaders that will be required," as well as examining passenger loading bridges capable of covering two levels of passenger processing will be required.
In Europe, GlobeGround is in close touch with the German arm of Airbus Industries, EADS. "We have had meetings to discuss Airbus' ideas on ground handling, and we made comments with regard to what a ground handling company would like to see on the new A380," says Thomas Schubert.
"Once the delivery date comes nearer and ground handling manuals are available, we will begin with in-house familiarization and training for staff at those locations that are likely to handle the A380."
Initially, Schubert believes that only the world’s major airports will feel the impact of the new aircraft, although this will spread to other larger airports in time. "Apart from the home bases of the carriers using the A380, which will mostly self-handle, I see an increasing number of handling events that will need to be managed through ground handling companies at more and more hubs."
GlobeGround has made its feelings clear on the subject of GSE commonality. "During the meetings with Airbus--and we trust the GSE manufacturers are thinking in the same direction--we pointed out that all new A380-equipment must be useable on smaller widebodies such as A300/310/330/340 and B747/767/777 in order not to have ‘white elephants; in the GSE fleet," says Schubert.
"The sourcing of this equipment will be done through our partners that are specialized in defining specifications on GSE."
While Dale Griffith at Emirates believes that "any ground support equipment developed for the A380 will have commonality for the current range of aircraft so incrementally the financial hit should be modest," Schubert feels that the costs could impact small, local handling companies that much harder.
"I see advantages for financially powerful ground handling networks," he says. "Being able to invest in special A380 equipment, thus being ready to turn around an A380 as quickly as possible, could be a clear advantage over the competition."
.But what about actual turnaround time for this behemoth? According to Airbus statistics, a Boeing 747-400 can be turned around on the ground in 83 minutes. Using the same assumptions, Lemoigne claims a turnaround time of 88 minutes for the A380. This time, says Lemoigne, could be reduced further (to 75 minutes) if dedicated upper deck loading is utilized, or as low as 66 minutes if less than a full load of fuel is required at turnaround.
"Our objective will be to keep timings similar to today's. Given the right amount of automation, trained staff, and terminal and ground support equipment that should be achievable," says Griffith.
GlobeGround remains slightly more cautious. "We haven’t started our own calculations yet," explains Schubert. "It appears to be a bit premature since we do not know any airline relevant specifications such as container/pallet positions in the bellies or seating versions in the cabin.
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What leading airports are doing to prepare for arrival of a next-generation aircraft