Ready for take-off in ten steps…

From landing to take-off in next to no time


“Cabin crew, prepare for landing...” Your flight is approaching Schiphol and preparing to land on a runway assigned by air traffic control. The wheels hit the ground and passengers applaud as the aircraft taxis briskly towards the gate. Even as it safely reaches its designated stand and travellers spring from their seats to wait in the aisle until the door opens, ground personnel are gathering outside to ready it for departure as fast as possible. What needs to be done to get the plane back in the air on time?


Ready for take-off in ten steps…

  1. The pilot parks the aircraft in exactly the right place. Usually with the help of an automatic system, but occasionally guided by a marshaller waving two paddles or wands. Dozens of handling personnel are already standing by to perform a whole range of tasks simultaneously.
  2. As soon as the aircraft is stationary and the engines are switched off, the first priority is to disembark the passengers as quickly as possible. The apron handler places chocks in front of the wheels and connects the ground power. Meanwhile, the passenger bridge manoeuvres up to the door and a belt loader rolls up to the cargo hold. Luggage is unloaded and transferred to the terminal on baggage carts.
  3. Refuelling begins, usually from a hydrant at the stand. A hose is attached to this from a special vehicle called a dispenser, with the other side connected to the fuel tank in the wing. Read more about refuelling here.
  4. Now it is time to service the aircraft. The caterer loads new meals and takes away the food waste and used cutlery and crockery. Other activities include draining the lavatories, replacing the headrest covers, removing rubbish and distributing fresh blankets and in-flight magazine.
  5. A specialist team – or sometimes the crew themselves cleans the cabin so that the new passengers board a pristine aircraft.
  6. Meanwhile, specialists from the airline conduct a technical check to make sure that the engines, wings, control surfaces, landing gear, instruments, doors and other equipment are in full working order.
  7. The aircraft is now ready for baggage to be loaded for the next flight. This is a quick process, on average taking only 10-15 minutes. A little later the passengers start boarding. As soon as they are all in their seats, the door is closed and the pilot informs air-traffic control that the flight is ready for departure.
  8. The apron handler removes the chocks. A so-called pushback truck reverses the aircraft into taxiing position, pushing it with a towbar attached to the nose-wheel strut. Or, in the most modern versions, by actually lifting the wheel. That speeds up coupling and decoupling.
  9. The aircraft taxis to the runway to depart at the agreed time.
  10. The pilot waits for permission to take off from air-traffic control. This is possible once the departure route is clear. As soon as the go-ahead is received, the plane takes to the air at full power.

Mission accomplished!
A smaller narrow-body jet can often depart again within just half an hour of landing. In the case of large wide-body aircraft, the process takes two to three hours. Either way, every successful turnaround is a top-class achievement in a whole range of ways.