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Welcome to the world of Aviation. An introduction to a fascinating industry. Deliberately left blank. The Aviation industry.. What is it all about?. These “things with wings” and all that goes on to get them in the air where they belong!. The Aviation industry.

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Welcome to the world of Aviation

An introduction to a fascinating industry

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

Deliberately left blank

The Aviation industry..What is it all about?

These “things with wings” and all that goes on to get them in the air where they belong!

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

The Aviation industry..

Simply put, it is all about aircraft and flying, but there is a lot more to it. It is not just the Pilots in their fancy uniforms, or “glamorous” Flight attendants . You can find a place in this amazing industry as well, there are a wide variety of jobs available. In this presentation, we will look at some of these jobs:

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

The Aviation industry..What is it all about?

  • Pilots, as we mentioned, highly trained professionals

  • The Flight attendants, your on-board hosts and hostesses

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  • A very well paid job, but also a very responsible one.

    • It costs a fortune to train as a pilot, unless you are sponsored, some airlines, like SAA have training programmes where people are trained from “Scratch”. It is an intensive 24 month programme to qualify as an Airline Pilot. Cost? Around

      R 800, 000! (If you do it on your own!)

    • A high level of academic qualifications are required, including Mathematics, science etc. You may also NOT be colour blind!

    • The pass mark for your tests/exams is mostly between 80 and 90%. High? Yes, but would you be comfortable flying with a pilot who only managed to get 40% in his exams? He knows less than half of what he should!!!

  • Great Job if you get it!

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Flight Attendants

  • Both men and women can become Flight Attendants, one of the big perks of the job is that you get to travel extensively.

    • It is not always as Glamorous as it is made out to be!

    • The Cabin Attendant has to be a real “People’s Person” often having to put up with stupid complaints from Passengers!

    • The Hours can also be long, especially on overseas flights, when sometimes passengers who can’t sleep want coffee at all hours!

    • As Flight Attendants are “Ambassadors” for the Airline, they need to be well groomed and friendly at all times!

    • It is a difficult job for married people as they are often away from home for days.

  • If you feel you have the ability – Go for it!

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The Aviation industry.What is it all about?

  • Aviation Technicians, or Aircraft

  • mechanics, a number of trades, ranging from Mechanical, to upholstery, to radios, instruments etc.

  • Check-in staff at the counters.

  • Cargo Handling.

  • Aircraft Loading Equipment operators.

  • This industry even has a “Special language”… more later!

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

The Aviation industry.What is it all about?

  • Weight and balance “experts”.

  • Aircraft Cleaning.

  • Vehicle and Ground Support Equipment (GSE)

  • technicians.

  • Catering.

  • Computer programmers and operators.

  • Air Traffic Controllers . (ATC)

  • Administrative staff in all areas.

  • Remember --- this is a 24-7 Industry

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Let us have a look at some Aircraft…. They come in all sizes and shapes, Each designed for a specific job!

From -

Military Aircraft - Fighter/Bomber

Through to -

Airbus A380 “Super Jumbo” (500 + passengers!)

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Luxury “Biz Jets”

Flying Ambulances

Medium “Commuters”

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And Passenger aircraft………

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<Big ones

Medium ones

And Small ones!

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Yes, all shapes, sizes & colours

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Ground Handling

  • For those of us who didn’t make it as “flying crews” There are still many jobs available as mentioned earlier, let us look as them in groups:-

    • Passenger Handling

    • Aircraft Maintenance

    • Air Traffic control

    • Airport Management (ACSA)

    • Aircraft Fuelling

    • Aircraft Cleaning, external and internal.

    • Ground Handling.

    • Safety and Quality Control

    • GSE Maintenance.

    • Cargo Warehousing.

    • Baggage handling.

    • Catering.

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

Passenger Handling

This involves more than one would imagine! Checking in you must ensure travel documents are all in order, weigh baggage, allocate seats, issue boarding cards and carry out all the formalities at check in desk


All passengers have to be checked through the boarding gates! The numbers have to tally. Passenger Handling staff also have to cater for special needs of passengers. These guys also have to be “People Persons”!

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Aircraft Maintenance

Another very important job. Very precise work with safety as a high priority. Training is very strict and a pass mark of 80% is required for most exams. (It seems that these mechanics have gone for lunch!)

This trade requires attention to detail and dedication to the job. Passengers lives depend on the mechanic doing his work 100%. Unlike the picture below, an aircraft cannot stop for repairs in the air!

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Air Traffic Control (ATC)

A very stressful job! ATC are the “Traffic officers” controlling the movements of aircraft both in the air and on the ground. Picture this… there are aircraft taking off, landing and taxiing, often all at the same time! ATC have to really be on their toes to ensure that there are no collisions, in the air or on the ground. With aircraft moving at speeds of 300-400KPH, there is no time for mistakes!

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Airport Management

Airport Management cover a wide range of jobs as well. The Airports Company of South Africa own and manage the major airports in South Africa and are responsible for the safe and efficient running of the airports,

Maintaining the high standards as required by IATA, the CAA and of course the airlines.

Jobs range from upkeep of the airport, runways, all equipment owned by ACSA, allocation of parking bays, close liaison with Air Traffic control, monitoring that all stakeholders and “tenants” of the airport comply with laid down regulations, through to the marshalling of aircraft into parking bays.

(Bird Control)

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Aircraft Fuelling

There are basically two methods of refuelling aircraft, using mobile fuel tankers or “transferring” fuel from underground pipelines as shown below.

As with all other aspect of Aviation, this is a specialized field. Aircraft have to be earthed to prevent any chance of sparks (and subsequent fire) caused by static electricity, and every precaution taken against spillages or fuel fires! The Specific Gravity has to be checked, and the exact amount of fuel dispensed to the aircraft. (There are no “Fuel stops” for commercial passenger aircraft up in the sky! Some military aircraft can be refuelled in flight, but not commercial passenger aircraft). Bear in mind that a B747-400 takes over 100 tons of fuel!

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Aircraft Cleaning

This is an important function, believe it or not!

Passengers are not always the cleanest or tidiest people, especially on long haul flights and leave the aircraft in a mess. They are quick to complain if the aircraft is messy or dirty! The exterior of the aircraft, just like any other “vehicle” also gets dirty and requires periodic cleaning. The Airlines need to project a good image. Dirty aircraft are also uneconomical to fly!

Now this looks very neat and tidy… clean and groomed!

Special equipment and detergents are needed to clean the outside. Staff have to be very careful not to damage the aircraft!

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Ground Handling

Ground Handling covers a wide range of jobs, from positioning of steps or air bridges, to Loading baggage & cargo into the cargo compartments according to load plans, to draining and flushing of toilet tanks, towing and pushing of aircraft. We will use a few pages here to show some of the Ground Support equipment (GSE) which is used. These are “strange” expensive and very complex vehicles, designed to do their specific jobs safely and efficiently. Operators have to undergo extensive training in the correct use of these “toys”. Abuse, or incorrect operations of the GSE can lead to very expensive and serious damage to aircraft.

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“Tools of the trade”

Some of the “GSE” used to handle Aircraft

Conveyor loaders

Apron buses

Passenger steps

Cargo Loaders

Passenger Aid Unit

Aircraft tow tractor

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This is not an Aircraft tow tractor currently in use!

(Although it would be economical on Diesel and maintenance!)

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Ground Handling:Baggage Handling

The Baggage handlers in the baggage areas, load the bags into the wagons and they are delivered to the aircraft, where they are loaded into the aircraft strictly according to a load plan,

Baggage has to be handled carefully so as not to damage bags and security staff monitor that there is no pilferage! Baggage is reconciled between the basement to the aircraft to ensure that no bags are left behind, or misplaced.

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Ground Handling:Toilet and water servicing

Aircraft toilets are NOT drained in the air! Special Trucks are used to drain, and flush the toilets and pump fresh water and chemicals into the toilet tanks

Drinking, or Potable water is also pumped into tanks in the aircraft to give passengers safe drinking water as well as water for washing hands

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

Safety and Quality Control

Safety is a very important aspect of this industry and one of the “Credos” is “Safety is NOT negotiable”. Dealing with hundreds of passengers lives and billions of Rands/dollars worth of aircraft, you do not take chances!

Quality control is just as important and regular “Audits” are carried out by both the Airlines and the Airports authorities to ensure that a very high standard of workmanship is maintained. The Airlines need to feel comfortable that the Ground Handler will handle their aircraft safely and in accordance with laid down procedures. Damages to aircraft cost millions each year

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

GSE Maintenance

Another very important job, keeping the GSE and vehicles in tip top condition. Specialized training is required as GSE items are complicated!

Aviation Ground Handling & I.T. Solutions inc

Cargo Warehousing

This is where all Air Cargo is accepted for outbound flights and received from incoming flights. For outgoing cargo, they have to ensure that the cargo is correctly packed and safe for flight and “legal” and that all documentation is correct.

Oh, and by the way, they do not only handle fancy and expensive motor cars! Anything from Courier packages to ship spares all have to go through the cargo warehouses!

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Baggage Handling

Down in the Baggage Basements People are hard at work loading baggage into containers (on left) or Baggage wagons (on the right) for collection and loading into the correct aircraft. A responsible job too… We don’t want to send a passenger’s baggage to New York when the passenger is flying to London!

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Passengers and crews feel the need to have something to eat and drink during the flight! Especially long haul flights.

Flight kitchens prepare thousands of meals per day, according to strict menus provided by the airlines. Not only to they have to prepare them, but also load them in special trolleys and load the aircraft galleys.

Typical Business & Economy class meals on a regional flight!

Loading all the meals and drinks into the aircraft, using sophisticated catering trucks shown here.

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The Language…

This industry has a strange language, which is sometimes a bit difficult to understand if you are not involved! Perhaps it is due to “Laziness” but a lot of use is made of Acronyms. Do you know what is meant by the following:-

ETA BA6238 10H00 Zulu, Del to ATC DUR, Ops B738, Bay E9, APU U/S, GPU and ASU reqd. 5 x UMs & 2 x PRM on board, PAU Requested. F bags H2. Rev ops DEP BA 6321.


In English……. Estimated time of arrival of flight BA6238 is now 10H00 Greenwich Mean time. Delay due to Air Traffic Control in Durban. Aircraft is a Boeing 737-800 which will be parked at Echo 9 Parking bay. The Auxiliary Power unit is unserviceable and they require a Ground Power unit and an Air Start unit on arrival. There are 5 Unaccompanied minors (Kids under 12 years old) on board as well as 2 x passengers with reduced mobility (Wheel chair bound passengers). Passenger Aid unit has been requested for these passengers. The 1st class baggage has been loaded in hold #2. The departing flight has been changed to flight BA6321.

OK, so how much of that did you work out?

A list of the more commonly used Acronyms follows.

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A few Acronyms

  • APU - Auxillary Power Unit

  • GPU – Ground Power Unit

  • ASU – Air Starter unit

  • PTS - Precision Time Schedule

  • AWB – Air Waybill (Document which has to accompany cargo)

  • FOD – Two meanings, Foreign Object Debris, or Foreign Object Damage

  • CPM – Container/Pallet Message

  • IATA – International Air Transport Association

  • ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation.

  • LMC – Last Minute Change.

  • AOG – Aircraft on Ground. This would indicate very urgent aircraft spares shipped as cargo.

    These are only a few in common use! Always remember, if you are not sure..... Ask!

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Some Trivia…

  • Did you know…

    • The weight of the fuel carried by an A380 is heavier that the take off weight of it’s “baby” sister, the A330.

    • The span or length of the tail plane on the A380 is larger than the wingspan of the A320.

    • Each engine of a Boeing 747 burns around 16 litres of fuel per second on takeoff.

    • Every 5 seconds, somewhere in the world, a Boeing 737 is taking off.

    • The length of a Boeing 747 is longer than the length of the first flight made by the Wright brothers in 1903.

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There you have the “basics”:

Thank you for joining us on this quick introduction into the Aviation industry, we hope it was interesting!

It is a unique industry, a lot of hard work, sometimes in bad weather and through the night, but it is very rewarding. No matter what job you did on the aircraft, whether it was checking tyre pressures, loading the aircraft, cleaning it, working out the load sheet, Checking the passengers in, pushing the aircraft out or doing the “Headset” operation, when you see the aircraft taking off, it gives tremendous job satisfaction!

Are you up to the challenge? Yes? Welcome to Aviation!

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The Phonetic Alphabet

A – Alpha N - November

B – Bravo O – Oscar

C – Charlie P – Papa

D – Delta Q – Quebec (or Queen)

E – Echo R - Romeo

F – Foxtrot S - Sierra

G – Golf T - Tango

H – Hotel U - Uniform

I – India V - Victor

J – Juliet W - Whisky

K – Kilo X – X-Ray

L – Lima Y - Yankee

M – Mike Z - Zulu

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