Hello, ebearyone! I know it’s been furever since I wrote on my blog, and that’s because I have been busy! Busy traveling all over, seeing all sorts of sights and now I’m ready to share them with you! At the beginning of March, my girl person and I flew out to California to visit her mom (my Gran)! We stayed for three weeks and had lots of fun! I met up with some fellow TeddyBearScouts, went on a Safari in Gran’s house, and flew on lots of big airplanes! That was the best part, and since my girl used to work at an airport, she told me all about how things work! Now, I’m going to tell you all about airports, too!
Many of us are familiar with flying…there are tickets, boarding passes, cramped seats, bad food, and all sorts of racing around between flights. But! There is a whole world of activity beneath the airport! There are conveyor belts, funny looking little cars, glow sticks, and lots of noise! I’ll start at the beginning…
When the airplane lands on the runway, it taxi’s…drives around the side roads, so to speak, until there is a parking place ready for it at the building.
When it is ready to park, a person marshall’s it in…using glowing sticks and hand signals to show the pilot where to park! Once the plane is parked, the wheels are chocked…these little blocks go around the wheels so they can’t roll anywhere.
The Ground Workers, called Rampers (the Ramp is another name for the big parking lot area the planes are sitting on) plug the airplane into various power outlets for fresh air inside the plane and to keep the computers running (since the plane’s engines are turned off).
Once the airplane is parked, and plugged into backup power, it’s time to unload the people and the luggage! The Jetway (A35 here) (the long tunnel that goes up to the side of the plane) is positioned by the Gate Attendant…that’s the inside worker that takes your tickets at the counter. After the jetway is in place, the passengers (also called Pax, for short) can walk off the plane and into the building…that’s known as de-planing. They will go inside, and either get their luggage and leave, or find their next flight and start all over!
As for removing luggage, the Rampers have a special little car called a Belt-Loader that they pull up to the airplane’s cargo area and put the suitcases on to lower them to the ground. Once the bags are off, Tugs (the tractor-like cars running all over) with Baggage Carts (the big carts with curtains, that kinda look like old circus wagons) come around and pick up the luggage. All the bags have sticky tags on them with codes telling where they are supposed to go. (All airports have a designated code (3 letters) and the Rampers look at those codes on tickets and luggage and they immediately know where people and things are supposed to go!) So, the Tugs put the luggage on the Baggage Carts and either deliver them into the airport for delivery to passengers, or deliver them to another plane to go with the passenger to their final destination.
After the people and the luggage leave the airplane, it is time to get it ready to fly away again. The Rampers do a quick walk through and make sure the plane is clean, has enough supplies (soda, tissue, food, etc.), they clean out the restrooms (through a little door underneath the plane, using a long vacuum hose) (sorry, no pics of that part), and then begin loading the luggage that is arriving from other planes via Tugs. The Belt Loader stays at the plane the entire time, and the new bags are put on the conveyor and sent up to the side of the plane, where a Ramper is waiting to stack them neatly inside the cargo hold (kinda like the trunk/boot of the airplane). Luggage stacking is very important, because during takeoff and landing, the luggage can shift all around…that is a bad thing because balance is VERY important to the plane flying safely! Once all the bags are loaded, the new passengers are allowed down the jetway and onto the airplane for departure.
Airplanes do not have a reverse gear or anything, so they must be pushed backwards and turned around so they are ready to pull away towards the runway. This is called Push (or pushing) the plane, and is done by extra-large Tugs! The Rampers hook up a special pole (a Push Bar)between the airplane and the Tug, and using hand signals between the Tug driver and the Pilot, the airplane is pushed back, away from the building and turned to face the proper direction. Along with the pilot and Tug driver, there are Rampers Wing-Walking…that is a person on each side of the airplane, walking along the wings and looking out for anything that might hit the plane as it backs up. This is especially important since there are no rear-view mirrors and the planes are so large that the Tug drivers cannot see what’s behind the plane. They could accidentally push the plane back into another plane, or over a passing tug/baggage cart, or something.
After the Tug has pushed the airplane back and turned it so it’s facing the right direction and can pull forward on its own, it is time to disconnect. The tug driver and the pilot use hand signals to set the park brake, and remove the Push Bar, and such. A Ramper will stay out there in front of the plane, until the tug is clear of the roadway, and only then will the Ramper signal the pilot that he is safe and clear to drive off. The plane will then Taxi back to the runway and wait for the Tower to clear it for takeoff.
So! There is A LOT going on while you are inside the airport building, walking around and shopping and looking for the restroom! My girl worked at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona as a Ramper, before moving inside and doing other jobs. It was very hot, very loud, and very strenuous…but she loved it. Personally, I just want to get my ticket, find a seat belt that’s not too tight, and enjoy the flight!