On the 27th April, we had the chance to make a tour of ramp operations during the preparation of the flight AF 012 to New-York JFK. Walking at the foot of a Boeing 777-300ER, visiting the cargo part of the aircraft, attend the push-back directly in the tow truck…magical !

Participants were divided in three groups, each following the preparation of a different aircraft. After having been through the safety controls, we arrived on the tarmac of the Terminal 2E.

Arrival on the tarmac of Terminal 2E… Where is « our » aircraft ? © Sophie Figenwald

When arriving there, you just don’t know where to look. So many aircrafts and activity around them all !

We finally stopped in front of a Boeing 777-300ER, the flight AF012 to New-York JFK, parked next to a beautiful Boeing 747-400.

Panorama of our neighbour, a 744 © Sophie Figenwald

The tour of ramp operations began with the visit of the cargo part of the aircraft. We were warmly welcomed by the person responsible of the loading. We assisted to the manipulation of two pallets inside the aircraft. It’s mpressive to see how everything’s automated.

A pallet loaded in the aircraft © Sophie Figenwald
Exclusive perspective under the big bird © Sophie Figenwald

We then got close to the engines of the 777-300ER. These are GE90-115B able to raise the 330 tons of the aircraft thanks to 180 000 L tanks. Quite big isn’t it ?

One of the two GE90 engine of the Boeing 777-300ER © Sophie Figenwald

We then came to the back of the aircraft where agents were loading passengers’ lugagges. We there learnt that luggages are not controlled only once during the check-in. At the foot of the aircraft, they are once again scanned by agents to be sure the owner of the luggage they load is well in the aircraft. It takes time but it’s of course for safety reasons. Business class passengers’ luggages are loaded next to the door to be taken out of the aircraft the first.

The « back » of the aircraft © Sophie Figenwald

Furthermore, we learnt that there is a little trap door as you can see on the next picture which is used to load luggages of passengers with a short transfer time or of people who checked-in the lately.

AF012 and its neighbours; in the background, a B747 Cathay Pacific © Sophie Figenwald
Final loading of luggages © Sophie Figenwald

The time then came to close all the doors and to push-back the plane. The chief of operations informed us that one person was allowed to participate to the push-back in the tow truck. We all surely thought « Oh my God !!! ». Men of the group were really gentlemen and let me do it; an incredible moment I would never have thought to live. Thanks again to them for the chance they gave me, I know how much we all wanted to do it.

While some of the participants made some pictures in the tow, ground agents released the undercarriages.

Ground agents release the front undercarriage © Sophie Figenwald

And then, it was time for me to board the tow truck !

Ready to hitch the aicraft to the tow truck © Sophie Figenwald

The driver was actually the person responsible for the loading of the aicraft. After having validated the loading plan, he was allowed to hitch the aircraft. He easily placed the truck in the center of the undercarriage and stopped. He then selected the type of aicraft with a button on his right. This tow truck could have pushed different aircraft types (A320, A330, A340 and B777, not sure of 747), but not an Airbus A380. An impressive moment then happenend. The tow truck lifted the aicraft !

After having received the green light from his colleague who was walking next to the truck and who was in contact with the pilot (who was himself in contact with the tower), we began to push back the aircraft. It seemed so easy and was quite quick, as if the aircraft was not that heavy…

Pushing back the 777 © Sophie Figenwald

When the aircraft was on the right place to turn on his engines, we stopped. A very very nice perspective under the aircraft and on the Terminal 2E !

© Sophie Figenwald

After having removed the « flamme » (don’t know the specific english word I’m sorry), we moved back.

The ground agent is removing the « flamme » © Sophie Figenwald
Moving back © Sophie Figenwald

And finally, the last picture from the tow truck.

The aircraft is now ready to turn his engines on © Sophie Figenwald
Getting out of the tow truck with a round of applause ! © JohnnyJet

This is how this tour ended. A very very nice moment which allowed us to discover how all ground agents work together to make the flight departing safely and on-time and whatever weather conditions are. Thank you Air France for having let us discovering this, we all will never forget this day ! And they succeeded as the flight AF012 of the 27th April took off on time !

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