Flying is one of the safest means of transportation today, but safety is not something that happens on its own, it needs professionalism and expertise in several related areas. Huge efforts collaborate to assist each aircraft in taking off and landing safely, most of these efforts are done by the ground handling specialists in the airport’s aerodrome. Ground handling and aerodrome operations provide every service an aircraft may need to operate functionally, that’s why they are considered an initial key to aviation safety and security.
Like any field, the responsibilities grow bigger in the times of a crisis and afterward, so today, since flights are resumed after months of lockdown, due to COVID-19, ground handling providers are in charge of reviving the aviation sector by conducting safe and efficient flight operations.
There are several international organizations and authorities responsible for worldwide aviation safety, each of which contributes to set the global procedures followed by ground handlers in every airport around the world. EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency is one of the most reliable authorities in the field, in this blog we will provide an overview of EASA’s mission and how it is conducted in the post-COVID-19 SIB for ground handlers.
What is EASA?
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was founded in 2002, to facilitate the process of achieving aviation safety in the EU while ensuring the highest levels of environmental protection. To fulfill this purpose, EASA follows a set of continuous tasks:
- Coordinating with all the international authorities and organizations that may assist in achieving the highest levels of aviation safety in the EU.
- Providing supervision and support to the EU member states in the field of aviation safety.
- Confirming and authorizing aviation products or organizations operating in the EU.
- Issuing safety information bulletins (SIB) to regulate rules and procedures relating to all aviation factors and incidents.
Today, EASA owns an international level of trust and reliability gained by its dedicated professionalism. This has encouraged all ground handling providers around the world, not just in the EU, -including iJET- to follow EASA’s recommendations for a safe and successful flight operation.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the flights around the world were either completely suspended or scaled-down. This cease of action had some repercussions that must be handled before re-operating. Now that flights are being resumed, EASA issued a new ground handling guide for European airports during COVID-19, reflecting full safety guarantees.
What Does EASA’s SIB for “Ground Handling Services at Aerodromes” Include?
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency EASA issued a SIB entitled “Provision of Ground Handling Services at Aerodromes” on 28 July 2020, addressing aerodrome operators and discussing how they can enhance ground handling in European airports and overcome the challenges that would follow the COVID-19 lockdown.
As mentioned before, aerodrome operators in any aerodrome operator around the world can benefit from the recommendations in this SIB to facilitate its flight operations.
1- Coordination Recommendations:
- Ground handling service providers must inform aircraft operators about completing or suspending any operation or service, in every possible means of communication, including NOTAM, if necessary.
- Aerodrome operators should coordinate with the National Aviation Authority about all ground handling matters to ensure the market’s stability, considering the expected traffic demand.
- Aerodrome operators and ground handling service providers should coordinate to ensure that they have a solid plan for resuming their operations.
- Developing and implementing a staff wellbeing program in coordination with all the ground handling service providers.
2- Maintenance Checks & Examinations
- Conducting performance checks for all the ground support equipment (GSE) to ensure smooth flights & aircraft operations after the lengthy inactivity. Additionally, all GSE must be stored in a place and manner that puts no people in danger or aircraft at risk (e.g. flammable materials, FOD, collision).
- Ensuring that maintenance workers have put GSE under thorough examination before putting them back on service.
- Notifying ground handling service providers about the apron operational limitations, like the lack of required equipment or apron lighting conditions, in addition to the utilities of aerodrome centralized infrastructure.
3- Staff Training & Authorizations
- Arranging refreshing training sessions for personnel who have unescorted access to the apron, such as (supervisors, managers, senior managers, and accountable managers). This training program is conducted according to ADR.OR.D.017, which states that the abovementioned officials should complete a refreshing training in case they stop performing their duties for a significant period before they are allowed to resume their jobs or have unescorted access to the aerodrome again. The refreshing training program shall tackle the overall safety management system including relevant procedures, safety reporting system, and aerodrome safety programs, in addition to the new recommendations issued in this SIB.
- The airport’s vehicles and GSE should only be operated by officials who own (valid apron driving authorizations, airside driving authorizations, or maneuvering area driving authorizations) according to the field they occupy, as recommended in ADR.OPS.B.025 regulations.
- Training new employees to appropriately operate aerodrome centralized infrastructure facilities, like boarding bridges, visual docking guiding systems, etc.
iJET believes in the efficiency of the ground operations updates in EASA’s SIB and commits to applying them, along with other additional recommendations.
Additional Recommendations by iJET
To celebrate the gradual recovery of the aviation sector after COVID-19, we are honored -in iJET- to take our turn in contributing to this recovery by presenting some of the recommendations we combined through our constant follow up process with the frequent updates of AIPs and NOTAMs published by international airports.
These recommendations could be used as a checklist to assess airports readiness to resume regular flight operations:
- Measuring the changes in aerodromes traffic density to increase or decrease the number of examination processes accordingly.
- Providing the apron illumination system and the radio navigation aids with a secondary power supply to avoid any malfunctions that may occur soon after using these facilities again.
- Providing a chain of direct speech circuits between the air traffic services unit, apron control service unit, meteorological office, and maintenance personnel unit to collaborate in solving any unexpected issue.
- Making sure that aerodrome markings and signs are still clearly visible and well-functioning, including calibration of PAPI, signs, status of obstacle lights, etc., and replacing them otherwise.
- Examining aircraft parking pavements as they might be distressed due to the lengthy parking period during the lockdown.
- Checking and confirming any operational withdrawals whether in declared aerodrome capacity or airport slots with the involved stakeholder and slot coordinators.
- Adhering to the general sanitization recommendations and wearing PPE, because ground handlers are in constant contact with passengers’ baggage, freights, and cargo, which increases the risk of COVID-19 infection, in case of neglecting these precautionary measures.
iJET stresses on its full commitment to all the international safety recommendations for ground handling or any other services related to flight support, offering all aircraft operators a smooth experience.
Visit the official website of iJET, the ISO-certified company, to learn how we can serve you through every phase of your flights: www.ijet.aero