Ground handling in private aviation

Written by: Felipe Reisch |
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Ever wondered how the handling requirements of private aircraft vary from that of larger, commercial jets? Felipe Reisch, Public Relations Manager for Monarch Air Group, explains all.

Ground handling is pretty much standard wherever you go in commercial aviation. Line personnel in Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil follow the same rules and procedures than those in Manchester Airport in the UK. Regulations in aviation speak one language. But what happens in the private aviation market, where the amount of time an aircraft stays on the ground varies greatly, as does the number of passengers and type of plane? Monarch Air Group takes us through the whole ground handling process of a private jet.

The A to Z of private handling

With arrival expected for 11:00am, the FBO manager is briefed first thing in the morning about the dozen flights his staff will be servicing today. Within those flights is a Gulfstream G650 arriving from White Plains airport in New York, probably the largest executive jet in the market, which will be grounded for three hours before a quick departure towards its next destination two hours away, heading to a city without any major handling services nor fueling co-ordination.

The jet’s operator has demanded the aircraft to be hangared due to the expected inclement weather on ground; therefore, space needs to be available before 11:00 for this large aircraft to be parked indoors. After a 6-hour international flight and as no refueling service is available at its next destination, the first 30 minutes will be spent refueling the G650 and providing lavatory and water services; in other words, performing below-wing services.

Furthermore, co-ordination for the 19 passengers onboard a swift operation is paramount, therefore customs and immigration services need to be in place the minute the aircraft arrives. Ten passengers will continue the journey and consequently 10 kilogrammes less of luggage per person will be available: two variables that have been already calculated for the right amount of fuel in order to adapt to the destination runway’s limitations. The ground transportation service and hotel accommodation for the nine passengers that previously disembarked worked as planned. These constitute the above-wing services offered in business aviation.

Finally, after accommodating ten passengers for three hours in the FBO’s lounge and loading the exact in-flight catering requested by the private jet clients for their next route, the Gulfstream G650 is ready for a swift boarding process. Luggage is already on-board, the crew are checked-in and the aircraft is in position, right in front of the main lounge.

There are plenty of moving parts in the ground handling service of a private jet, and it differs from the process of commercial aviation mainly in its level of customisation, with the type of clients determining the kind of services that will be performed. Plenty of moving parts, but nothing line professionals can’t handle.

Above-wing versus below-wing

The private aviation market as a whole, for either piston, turboprop or jet aircraft, has different handling requirements in comparison to commercial aviation. The whole essence of this segment demands a tailored service depending on the type of aircraft, time on ground, destination and number of passengers.

As with commercial aviation, handling can be separated into two segments. There are above-wing services, which assist the crew and passengers with customs and immigration in a Fixed-Base Operator (FBO), hotel accommodations and ground transportation to/from the hotel, and in-flight catering. All the previous vary depending on the aircraft size and route, which determines the size of the crew and number of passengers, the catering needs and the duration of the whole customs and immigration process.

While the above-wing services are reserved for the business aviation market, the below-wing services are standard for almost any aircraft, private or commercial. These comprise fueling co-ordination, hangarage if needed, the provision of ground support equipment, baggage handling, lavatory and water services, passenger steps when required and ground power units, amongst other services.

Established in 2005, Monarch Air Group is a leading provider of on demand private jet charter, aircraft management and long-term aircraft lease. Among Monarch’s customers are Fortune 500 corporations, leading entrepreneurs, government agencies and world-leading NGOs.

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