Five Years and Counting

Cover Story Five Years and Counting By Richard Rowe March 2001 Now that Airbus has announced a 2006 service entry date for its new A380 aircraft, the ground support world has a definite timetable in which to prepare, writes Richard Rowe...

"However, we have our doubts with both the A380 and the B-747 calculation. The turnaround time calculations for both aircraft seem somewhat theoretical with a focus on commercial aspects rather than day-to-day airport operations.

"Shortly before the aircraft is in service, we will sit down locally with each of our customers using the A380 to one of the destinations that we serve. Having identified the critical path, we will work out those tasks and duties that have to be accomplished at certain times in order to achieve a turnaround time that is as short as possible," he adds.

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A380: The Airport View

Like others, BAA, the operator of London Heathrow and six other U.K. airports, has worked closely with Airbus and the airline community on planning for the A380. Ever mindful of community relations, this has been not only from an operational standpoint, but also in terms of reducing noise and emissions.

Well aware of its own constraints at Heathrow, BAA has long maintained that aircraft larger than those in operation today are inevitable given the runway capacity issues at many of the world’s major airports. Heathrow’s plans envisage accommodating large numbers of A380s, which will require alterations to the airport’s existing airfield and terminal infrastructure.

It is crucial for Heathrow that Terminal 5 is up and running, designed as it is to handle super jumbos by providing the necessary aircraft stand and terminal layout for them.

With a wingspan of around 80 meters and carrying up to 650 passengers (in later configurations), BAA is resigned to the fact that the new aircraft poses logistical and technical challenges for Heathrow.

"ICAO has issued a Directive on the clearances required for 80-meter wingspan aircraft and this will require a degree of widening and realignment of taxiways and aprons to be undertaken," said a BAA spokesperson. "BAA is working hard with other British and European airports to counteract the impact of these clearances and will be challenging the ICAO methodology which determines them, in order to minimize the impact on airport infrastructure."

From a terminal point of view, BAA expects Terminal 3 to be the most likely of Heathrow’s terminals to receive the new aircraft in addition to Terminal 5 (which will be used by British Airways and Pacific Rim carriers). With the potential arrival of so many passengers at a time, this will place increased pressure on arriving facilities such as Immigration and baggage reclaim—all issues being addressed by BAA.

"The number of stands across the whole airport could be reduced as existing stands are reconfigured and others are lost altogether," conceded the spokesperson. "However, the number of stands which need to be available will be largely determined by the level of demand from airlines, and BAA has planned for sufficient stands of this size to meet predicted demand."

While some airports plan to provide air bridges on a double deck basis, this is not considered to be practical at certain terminals at Heathrow and would create "significant logistical problems over segregating inbound and outbound passengers." BAA says that it is more likely to favor providing two boarding bridges for each aircraft.

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