The World of Air Transport and Its Behind-the-Scenes

Svět letecké dopravy a jeho zákulisí

Air travel is nowadays an absolutely common mode of transport for scheduled commercial flights and private jets. It's one of the fastest and safest ways to travel, whether you are flying on holiday, on business or to a cultural or sporting event. Passengers choose a particular flight according to a number of criteria. Price is a factor for some, for others, comfort, privacy or the ability to choose a specific departure time and destination. However, few people know that the departure of an aircraft and the entire logistics of the flight involve a number of steps that must be taken before the aircraft departs, during the flight and after landing. See who, besides the captain and crew, keeps passengers safe on planes.

Safety not only in the air but also on the ground

There are many protocols within air travel to keep passengers safe. To do this, you not only need an experienced captain and crew on board, but you also need to arrange ground support. This is provided by several institutions, such as the air operator's Operations Control Center (OCC). It allows the aircraft to take off at the Calculated Take Off Time (CTOT) and ensures that the aircraft lands or takes off within the given time window (SLOT – slot, the time period allocated to the aircraft for take-off or arrival). What exactly do these terms mean and how do they help passengers enjoy a safe flight?

The air operator's Operations Control Center

There are a number of steps that need to be taken before the aircraft can take to the air. Subsequently, ensure that the aircraft reaches its destination safely, lands and is taken care of according to the appropriate regulations after landing. All of these tasks are largely the responsibility of the airline operations center staff. They have a major share of responsibility for the coordination of processes and communication with other airlines.

In the past, positions in flight planning largely held by aircraft pilots and a few ground control staff. However, with the development of air transport, cargo flights and private jets, this role has had to be taken over by operations centers, which take care of various types of services. In general, these are two areas:

  • administrative control room – the provision of ground services, including runway clearance
  • navigation dispatching – flight route planning, meteorology, aircraft performance characteristics

All staff in the operations control center of an air operator shall be professionally specialized and licensed to achieve the maximum safety of air operations. In addition, each country has different criteria for knowledge and experience to train OOC personnel.

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What happens during the flight

Preflight is the most important and time-consuming part of the operations control center (OCC). It all depends on whether it is a private flight or a scheduled commercial airline flight. OCC operators must take into account the operational constraints of the airport, its load and meteorological conditions. At the same time, they must determine the availability of ground services, check all overflight and landing clearances and the flight plan.

During the flight (inflight), the main task of the OCC is flight tracking and monitoring of the current meteorological situation. Especially on longer flights when the weather can change. The main role of the operations control center is to have information on where the aircraft could make an emergency landing in the event of adverse weather conditions.

After landing (postflight), the dispatchers of the operations control center mainly focus on the analysis of the entire flight planning and feedback. Ground services and aircraft maintenance also play an important role in this phase. Aircraft Maintenance plays a key role in preventing potential problems and facilitating the aircraft's next take-off.

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Flight delays, why planes are delayed

Air transport, whether it is commercial carriers or private airlines, is a very complicated process. The key is Collaborative Decision Making (CDM), which can make air transport more efficient. The individual centers, which send messages to each other about specific flights, make it possible to predict the departure time, flight duration, and landing time of the aircraft. Thanks to this communication, it is also possible to anticipate possible delays and coordinate further traffic.

Commercial and private flights are nowadays a very popular way to travel for pleasure, exploration, and work. However, many airports are unable to respond adequately to demand and utilization. That's why it is also worth betting on private airlines that can fly to less busy airports or use private terminals, where passengers can check in faster than in public terminals.

The risk of flight delays is minimal with a private jet. On the other hand, in many cases, a private plane will wait for passengers when they are delayed. But the situation is the opposite for commercial airlines. If a passenger is delayed, the aircraft departs without them. In the event of a delayed departure, the passengers have to wait and may have problems enforcing their refund rights. But often the problem is not only on the airlines' side.

There are many reasons why a plane may be delayed. The most common causes are adverse weather conditions, technical faults or poor management by the operations control center. And it's up to the individual carrier to solve these problems. Private airlines have an advantage here too, because they are only dedicated to their passengers, which usually do not exceed a few passengers.

The hidden world of aviation

Passengers on commercial airlines meet airport staff and the flight attendants and stewards who serve them on board the aircraft. Passengers in a private jet often have the opportunity to meet the captain who is flying their aircraft. Behind all these people, however, are the airline hub operators who are an essential part of air travel.

Although they are not visible at first glance, their job is to ensure the safety of passengers from take-off, during flight and after landing. They are an important link in the preparation and planning of flights. They need to be proficient in a range of specialized activities, while being able to respond to non-standard situations on an international scale.

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