9 plane checks before you’re ready to jet off

9 plane checks before you’re ready to jet off

9 plane checks from arrival to take-off – a guide to getting you flight-ready.

Curious as to what does on behind the scenes while you are waiting to board your next flight? Here is a 9-point check, thanks to CNN travel, that must be carried out before it’s safe for you to take off to your next destination.

  1. Parking the plane

As soon as a plane lands and clears the active runway, the pilots receive taxi instructions from ground controllers. Large airports can have complex and confusing taxiway layouts, while some airports simply have a runway and a ramp area.

  1. Hooking up the plane

The plane’s engines provide thrust and electrical power while in flight, but all passenger planes have a small jet engine which generates electricity when the plane is parked – an Auxiliary Power Unit, or APU. However, APU’s use costly fuel from the jet’s tanks, so many airports provide a ground power system, or there’s a generator cart parked at the gate. Once the plane’s access panel is opened and the connection is made with a heavy-duty cable and plug, the source of power is switched, and the engines are shut down.

  1. Connecting the air-con

The APU also energizes the plane’s climate control systems, hopefully keeping the cabin at a nice temperature while parked. Like ground power, some airports provide conditioned air through large-diameter flexible ducts that plug into a port on the belly of the plane – you might see a truck-mounted unit doing the job.

  1. De-planing

The passengers inside the plane have jumped up, and they’re waiting impatiently in the aisle to get off. If the gate is equipped, a passenger boarding bridge is positioned by the forward left-side doors. Otherwise, truck- or cart-mounted stairs roll up, and passengers experience the excitement of walking down the stairs and onto the ramp, being able to look back at their aircraft.

  1. Unloading the luggage

On the right side of the plane, the ramp team has swung into action. After opening the doors to the baggage and cargo holds, a belt-loader or a pod-loader is positioned, depending on the aircraft and baggage is taken to a baggage room, dropped on a conveyor and shoots out at the carousel – hopefully by the time you’ve arrive with your trolley. “Rampie” is the industry term for airline employees who load and unload planes.

If the plane is doing a quick turnaround, luggage of those to board is also loaded to the plane at this time.

  1. Stocking up with food

Catering trucks join the crowd outside the plane’s fuselage. Rising on a scissor lift, the truck’s box matches the height of the plane’s galley doors. The catering crew replaces used galley carts with newly stocked ones, each cart coded for a specific location in the galleys.

  1. Cleaning the toilets

Perhaps it’s not the most desirable ramp job, but somebody’s got to empty the plane’s lavatory holding tanks, and refill the fresh water system. Just like a recreational vehicle, this doesn’t happen during every stop.

  1. Refueling and boarding

An airline’s operations team will have figured out how much fuel is needed for each leg of a plane’s daily routing, and when to refuel. Big tanker trucks connect to the plane’s fuel system under the wing, or a pumper truck will hook up to a fuel hydrant in the ramp, then to the jet’s tanks, and pump away. At this point it’s normally time for you to board.

  1. Boarding and take-off

The crew has finished all the pre-flight preparations, the cabin door is closed, and you’re settled into your seat. At some point the pushback happens, this is when an aircraft is pushed backwards away from the airport gate by vehicles called tugs or tractors. Closer to departure, an aircraft tug will park right in front of the nose wheel.

Your journey begins with a gentle push, in reverse, and you’re anticipating the adventures to come.


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