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Airport Operations

Airport Operations 

1. Incident Background

It is 12:45 on January 17th 2008. You are the terminal duty manager at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 (T2) working a 12 hour 06:00 – 18:00 operational shift. You have just received notification of an aircraft accident at the airport. A British Airways Boeing 777-236ER registration G-YMMM has touched down some 330m short of the paved surface of runway 27L at 12:42. The aircraft has come to a rest on the paved surface of the undershoot area of runway 27L. See Figure 1.

Cabin crew supervised the emergency evacuation of the cabin and all occupants left the aircraft although it is understood that some passengers and crew are injured. The airport’s aircraft accident (on airport) emergency plan was instigated following the Heathrow Tower crash message sent at 12:42:22 (DfT, 20101 )

The airport duty manager (ADM) has just contacted you and explained that the ‘northern’ runway – 27R/09L is unaffected by the incident and remains fully operational. The ‘southern’ runway 27L will now be available for take-off only, for the rest of the day.

The result of this is that 20% of remaining flights scheduled to depart Heathrow today must be cancelled. The possibility of cancellations, delays and diversions remains today and tomorrow due to capacity constraint. The ADM is planning for a normal operational schedule of arrivals and departures tomorrow but this will depend on how events unfold today. Contingencies are being prepared for further disruption tomorrow. As is the case following even the briefest service discontinuity at Heathrow, severe passenger congestion is expected in the terminals for the rest of today and tomorrow. An application may be made by the ADM to waive the normal night-time flight curfew after 23:00 because of this which may allow a limited operation after scheduled departures have finished for the day.

2 Airport Background

3 Terminal 2 Background

The departing flight schedule for today and tomorrow (both being weekdays) is identical. Because of commerical sensitivity, the airline partners in T2 do not normally share any load information with you until 05:00 on the day of operation. Even then, this consists solely of an indication of which departing flights are heavily (>90%) or lightly (<60%) loaded. The departure schedule is shown in Appendix 1 with destination airport codes in Appendix 2 and airline/aircraft codes in Appendix 3. It is clear that the airline partners in the terminal consist of only non UK based airlines. Network carriers with frequent connections to their global hubs and smaller national airlines with less frequent flights home are both represented. A common user terminal equipment (CUTE) system is used to allocate check-in desks in the basement check-in area according to the slot allocation for the day. Only LH/OS, AF and IB currently have self-service check-in operating in T2. Arriving flights present the terminal with little operational challenge although they must be included in contingency planning considerations.

The terminal resource management system (RMS) forecasts the manning requirements for the provision of aviation security up to one day in advance using historical passenger data. The current roster for today and tomorrow is based on a normal operation for both days and has not been driven by airline booking data which remains essentially unknown. RMS output is required to be adjusted using judgement in such cases. The airport and terminal management structure is shown in Figure 3

To give some background to your role and responsibilities as terminal duty manager, a typical UK terminal duty manager job profile is shown in Appendix 4. Experience has shown that incidents such as these require strong leadership, communication and delegation skills. Your area of responsibility covers all the terminal and associated landside roads but ends at the aircraft air-bridge door as all airside operations (including stand allocation and apron management) are managed centrally at Heathrow by another department. No aircraft are based at T2 although some park overnight for early departure the next day. Typical staffing levels over an entire operational day are shown in Figure 3, with the security manning levels varying according to the RMS forecast. These staff numbers cover a 24 hour period. The BAA baggage team’s function is solely to run the baggage system as all other functions are carried out by airlines or handlers at Heathrow. The customer servicer duty management team is made up of Information desk staff (around 5 of 20 staff), trolley operatives (6/20), baggage reclaim hall management (3/20), terminal operation room staff (2/20) and floating duty officers (4/20). At night time when no flights are operational - 23:00 to 04:30 - there is usually a very limited staff presence of 2 engineers, 1 terminal operation room staff member, one floating duty officer and five security guards. Levels can be adjusted according to operational requirements although the overtime budget is limited each month and justification is required in advance from the terminal general manager to exceed it. You are not rostered to work an operational day tomorrow as another one of the four terminal duty managers is expected 06:00-18:00. Both today and tomorrow, a terminal duty manager will also be working in the terminal offices, ‘off-line’ on project work 09:00 to 17:00

4 Other operational and commercial considerations

Sub-zero temperatures are expected from 19:00 tonight until 08:00 tomorrow with a 50% chance of 5mm of snow forecast between 22:00 and 23:30. Each airline is responsible for aircraft de-icing and (usually) makes a contractual arrangement at the start of the winter schedule with a ground handler to supply this at Heathrow if required. Planned maintenance (i.e. not in response to a system fault but routine monthly work) is planned tonight 23:00 to 04:00 on the baggage conveyor system which will require it to be shut down for safety reasons. One of the two main revolving door entrances into the building is reported as out of service as at 12:45. You raised this in the daily operational morning meeting but as yet the third party contractor has not arrived from Kone to fix it. The security manning roster numbers originally required by the RMS forecast have been filled for today and tomorrow. Police are heavily involved in the aircraft incident management thus will not be present on normal patrol in the terminal unless specifically called to an incident today and tomorrow. Whilst the business relationship with Lufthansa, being the biggest customer in the terminal, is a very important one, there are many other airlines operating from T2 who together account for the majority of terminal traffic. Experience tells you to expect severe landside congestion and extreme pressure on retail and catering outlets in all areas of the terminal (both landside and airside) as well as high demand for toilet facilities. High levels of stress will be evident in some passengers.

5 Your task

 In one hour’s time at 13:45, the ADM requires you to present to her an outline action plan of what you feel you need to do now to respond to this incident. You consider only the perspective of T2. This must be in bullet point format, in order of priority, covering the 5 most important issues you feel need addressing immediately, with justification. Bear in mind that all incident communication and management in the terminal is down to you and your team. The ADM has requested that this information is presented on a single sheet of A4, to facilitate rapid understanding (15% of marks).

 Produce a suggested cancellation plan for the rest of today. This plan is to include 20% of the remaining departing T2 flights, spreading this fairly amongst airlines throughout the rest of today. Carefully explain the justification for your plan to show your reasoning behind this emotive subject (15% of marks).

 Describe how (and why) you and your team would approach each of the following terminal stakeholders and what information you would require from them as well as what instructions/guidance you wish to give to them (60% of marks):

1. Airline station managers

2. Terminal security

3. Retail operations

4. Landside operations

5. Terminal customer services

6. Terminal engineering


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