Detailed is a list of areas that are examined during the course of an annual turboprop airline airport audit. It identifies the large scope of the audit which is normally carried out by one auditor during the course of a day. Interviews are conducted with the airline station manager and members of staff on duty providing a thorough understanding of the operation. The station is reviewed for compliance with not only its own airlines policies and procedures but also New Zealand Civil Aviation (NZCAA) regulations. Should there be conflicting regulations you always defer to the higher authority in this case NZCAA. The audit is divided into portions with a complete review of each operation.
• Presentation: The airline industry is incredibly competitive and the first impression a passenger receives of an airline is on approaching the check in area. Generally airlines do not own their check-in areas but lease them from the airport, however they are still responsible for their appearance and upkeep. A cluttered and untidy area does not give a good impression in an image conscious industry.
• Signage: It is a New Zealand Civil Aviation requirement Rule Part 92.179 – Carriage of Dangerous Goods, that dangerous good signage is prominently displayed at check-in areas or wherever baggage is checked in. Notices provide information to passengers alerting them to any items that are prohibited from being carried on board an aircraft. It is usual to find a glass display cabinet located around the check-in area serving as a visual reminder to passengers of prohibited items for carriage, although not a NZCAA regulation.
• Cabin Baggage Frames: Airlines operate many types of aircraft all with different stowage facilities for hand baggage. It is common to find cabin bag frames around the check-in area. Their purpose is to assist check-in staff with demonstrating to passengers that oversized hand baggage will not fit in the overhead locker, this is also important from a weight and balance perspective. Passenger weights used by airlines incorporate a hand baggage component, although if passengers are allowed to board with oversized and overweight items above that accounted for in weight and balance calculations it will affect the aircrafts performance.
• Scales: Vital for accurately calculating baggage weights. With constant heavy use and general wear and tear it is not uncommon for scales to weigh heavy or light. Subsequently an annual calibration of baggage scales is necessary with a certificate of calibration for each scale displayed showing date of check and expiry.
• Staff Knowledge: It is always important to audit check-in staff for level of knowledge. These staff members are the front line, and act as the first level of defence for an airline. Interviews are normally conducted with staff at check-in whilst observing their interaction with passengers. Questions are asked to establish staff member’s level of knowledge of both airline and regulatory procedures.
Exit row limitations: It is important that staff are aware of emergency exit rows on board aircraft, so they do not seat inappropriate passengers such as the infirm or children in exit seats.
Sports groups: Airlines have a predetermined standard weight for passengers however sportsmen tend to weigh heavier so it is vital staff recognise when passengers travel if they fall into this category. Staff can use a special entry that automatically adjusts and increases the passenger weights at check-in. Learn more about standard-weights-for-passengers-crew-and-baggage
Baggage Labelling: Health and safety have clear guidelines on lifting heavy items and certainly passenger baggage weights can be deceiving and hazardous. Therefore baggage over a certain weight should have a bright orange heavy label attached to a handle by staff serving as a warning to anyone attempting to lift the item. Additionally airlines have their own labelling system denoting frequent flyers, special assistance passengers or interline baggage. Correct labelling is important from an airline service level perspective.
Baggage Checks: Passengers are often distracted in an airport environment and fail to fully comprehend any informational notices, therefore staff must alert passengers at check-in to dangerous goods signage prohibiting carriage of certain items. Staff should also exercise cautious with campers who unsuspectingly pack prohibited items such as gas cylinders and lighters in their luggage.
Carriage of Firearms: New Zealand is popular with the hunting fraternity and the carriage of firearms is a common occurrence on domestic aircraft. This is covered under NZCAA requirement Rule Part 91.9 (c) – General Operating and Flight Rules. Check-in staff must be aware of regulatory and airline procedures including documentation required for carriage of these items. The firearm must be disabled and travel in a secure case clearly labelled and stowed in an inaccessible part of the aircraft hold to passengers and crew. Any ammunition must be packed separately, and not exceed the airlines stipulated limit per passenger. The firearm is usually delivered separately from hold baggage on arrival at the destination.
Persons in Custody: Prisoner movement by air throughout New Zealand is an everyday occurrence with strict regulations surrounding their carriage covered under NZCAA requirement Rule Part 108.53 (c) – Air Operators Security Programme, or as prescribed in the airlines own security programme. Regulations pertain to the number of escorts required per prisoner depending on their level of risk. Seating must not be in, or near an exit row, with clear communication and documentation alerting crew to carriage of persons in lawful custody. It is essential that check-in staff correctly follow stipulated procedures and documentation is carefully completed.
Manual Check-In: It is not unusual for airports to incur power outages or system failures therefore staff must be competent in the use of manual check in methods, this is essentially pen and paper. Whilst not difficult, when under pressure there is room for error. Notating incorrect baggage weights or recording an incorrect seat number will affect the aircraft weight, balance and trim.
It is still common for regional airports to have staff trained in load control, however there is an increasing shift towards remote load control facilities. This entails a load control office in a separate off site location preparing load sheets and sending them directly to the aircraft via an electronic data link system. Regardless of the load control location flight files must be checked on the audit with aircraft paperwork in each flight file containing the following items of documentation. Learn more about load-control
• Load sheet: These are checked against other documentation ensuring they have been correctly produced with the correct weights and hold allocations for baggage. Load sheets must be signed or electronically acknowledge by the Captain.
• Loading Instruction Report (LIR) or Load Plan (LP): This is compiled by the baggage loader and details how much baggage, mail and cargo was received for the flight and documents after consultation with the load controller the hold location for the items. This should agree with the aircraft load sheet.
• Notice to Crew (NOTOC): This is not always found with the aircraft paperwork as it is only required when special loads are carried.
• Late Manual Change (LMC’s): Any changes from late passengers or weight offloaded from an aircraft must be added or subtracted on the load sheet as an LMC.
• Paperwork Retention: Legally a manual load sheet must be retained for 12 months or an electronic version for 3 months. A NOTOC is produced manually and must be retained for a period of 12 months. This ensures that records are available for reference should they be required.
Depending on the size of the airport the ramp can be a large or small area and can be particularly hazardous, therefore it is vital that any hazards are identified, eliminated or minimised.
• Ramp Markings: The apron should be clearly marked for aircraft showing turning and stop points. Paint should not be faded and any old or inconsequential marking should not be evident. If unsure of the quality of markings it is prudent to seek feedback from pilots operating in and out of the airport during the course of the audit. The markings are the responsibility of the airport and any inconsistencies or issues must be raised directly with them and not the airline station manager.
• Fire Extinguishers: There is usually a crash fire department at the airport but it is still necessary to have fire fighting equipment located around the ramp for any initial response to fire. These can be foam or powder extinguisher and are generally provided by the airport authority, therefore the number and type will vary between airports. A quick check of their condition and expiration is necessary as it is amazing how often these are found to be expired.
• Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Bins: It is not uncommon for aircraft to incur damage from foreign objects, such as puncturing a tyre from a rogue suitcase part. Therefore it is important to have bins located around the ramp, clearly coloured (usually yellow) and marked FOD. This encourages staff and passengers to pick up any debris and deposit it safely in the bins. These must be checked to ensure they are frequently emptied, as overflowing bins will increase the risk of FOD on the ramp.
• Smoking: Not usually a problem but not uncommon for staff or crew to be observed smoking on the ramp area. This is hazardous and not to be encouraged, signs of smoking paraphernalia are usually evident around the perimeter of the ramp area, and if this is a problem it should be taken up with the airline station manager.
This can be a significant cost for any airline and it is surprising how much ground equipment is required to turnaround an aircraft. Importantly if more than one aircraft type is handled then different items of equipment may be needed. Whilst equipment does not travel huge distance it is still subject to the elements and can incur heavy wear and tear. On an audit all equipment is visually checked for serviceability with a review of servicing records.
• Maintenance: Whilst equipment would not usually travel on the road or at great speed it must be maintained to exacting standards, ensuring safety to persons and aircraft. Equipment maintenance is costly and there is a fine line to ensuring equipment is in serviceable condition whilst being economically maintained. Procedures must be evident for defective equipment such as an unserviceable labelling system clearly marking defective equipment and prohibiting its use. Investigators will always scrutinise the maintenance records of any item of ramp equipment involved in an incident ensuring its level of serviceability was not a contributing factor, i.e. an electric tug making contact with an aircraft fuselage. Generally airlines have a stipulated maintenance schedule for equipment that is documented in their ground operations manual.
• Weighbridge: This is a large scale imbedded in the floor of the baggage area, barrows are driven onto it and weight calculated for the load. These must be annually calibrated as they incur tremendous wear and tear and should display a current calibration label.
• Barrows: These are used to transport baggage, cargo or mail out to the aircraft therefore it is important that they are in a good serviceable condition with tyres, brakes and towing arm all fully functional. For airports that have a weighbridge you will find each barrow has a tare weight written on it. This provides ground handlers with the actual weight of the barrow which they subtract from a laden barrow providing the total weight of the baggage. Commonly barrows vary in weight and it is always important when auditing to sample some barrow weights ensuring they are within a few kilos of their stated tare weight.
• GPU’s: Ground power units or battery carts are essentially a unit that supplies power to an aircraft when on the ramp. They must be carefully maintained ensuring they deliver the correct amount of power to the aircraft. A common occurrence with GPU’s is power spiking, this can be disastrous for an aircrafts sensitive electrical systems. They should exhibit a current maintenance label providing information on their last and next service.
• Wheelchairs: This item of equipment endures heavy use with passengers of all different shapes and sizes using them. Tyres must be regularly checked and although the chair may appear in good order if it is not serviced regularly parts could suffer from fatigue and cause injury to a passenger being transported.
• Electric Buggy: On a fine sunny day a buggy with a bald tyre might be functional, but in wet weather conditions it could hamper its braking and make contact with an aircraft. Surprisingly tyres for electric buggies are expensive so there is always the tendency to squeeze out the last bit of use. It is always important to audit the braking ability and stationary brake of a buggy.
• Forklift: Passengers who cannot manage to walk up the aircraft stairs require lifting onto the aircraft with a forklift (subject to aircraft type) holding a passenger booth on its forks. With the passenger ensconced inside the booth it is lifted by the forklift up to the aircraft door and the passenger can walk or is wheeled into the cabin. It is crucial the forklift is regularly maintained ensuring its brakes and functions are operating perfectly. It is quite a delicate process manoeuvring a booth containing a passenger up to an aircraft without contacting and damaging any part of the aircraft or injuring a passenger or member of staff, therefore the equipment must be in a fully serviceable condition.
Albeit a short seasonal function of a regional turboprop airline within New Zealand it is critical in ensuring winter operations continue with minimal disruption to the schedule. There are numerous components to de-icing an aircraft that must be audited.
• Training: It is important that all members of staff de-icing an aircraft have been correctly trained and are aware of the procedures for effectively de-icing specific aircraft types. Usually new members of staff attend a de-icing induction course with an annual refresher conducted prior to the winter season. No member of staff should de-ice an aircraft without holding authorisation from the airline.
• Scissor Lift: These are used to ensure the aircraft fuselage is effectively covered with de-icing fluid and any build up of snow or ice is removed from difficult to reach areas i.e. the tail or tops of the wings. They are unwieldy large items of equipment requiring careful operation around the aircraft ensuring no damage is incurred. Scissor lifts are only required for a small portion of the year so they are normally leased from a local hire equipment provider.
• Equipment: De-ice rigs are only used for a few months of the year so commonly incur serviceability issues when required at short notice. Therefore it is important they are maintained and are ready for the winter season, along with adequate stocks of de-ice fluid. This is usually distinguishable by its pink colour, although clear de-ice fluid is also used. Frequently found on audits is old de-ice fluid containers filled with water sporting de-ice labels and used as ballast for aircraft. An aircraft accidentally de-iced with pure water would not pose any real danger as it would be readily apparent that de-ice fluid was not being used, however this is still an unsatisfactory practice that is captured and deterred through the audit process.
Every airline has a documented procedure for their aircraft turnarounds. Some procedures are standard and globally accepted practice, such as waiting for the anti-collision light to be switched off before approaching an aircraft (except for approaching to chock and attach a gpu). Others are more type specific such as stropping a prop, or inserting a tail pogo prior to passengers disembarking. When observing an aircraft turnaround it should be audited in accordance with documented procedures as stipulated in the airlines own ground handling manual.
• Marshalling: Not always available or indeed necessary but when conducted marshalling signals must be in accordance with ICAO or IATA standards. The use of marshalling wands is not mandatory but prudent for night operations. Learn more about aircraft-marshalling
• Hearing Protection: An important health and safety issue is ensuring hearing protection is actively used by staff working on the ramp. There are numerous types of hearing protectors on the market but only some are suitable for use over prolonged periods of noise. Additionally ear protectors do not have an unlimited life span and must be periodically renewed ensuring they remain effective in protecting the ears.
• Aircraft Position: It is not always possible to park the aircraft in the perfect position for passenger safety and for ease of turnaround due to weather conditions or ramp constraints. However, passenger safety must be paramount and if the parking situation is not ideal then extra staff must be utilised ensuring passengers are safely directed to and from the airport terminal building.
• Aircraft Routine: After the aircraft has pulled onto stand and at a complete stop then a ramp staff member should immediately chock the nose wheel and signal to the pilots this has been done. The GPU should then be hooked up to the aircraft and the appropriate signal made to the flight deck. Only after the anti-collision beacon has been switched off should the aircraft be approached. The propellers can then be stropped, or hold doors can be opened and passengers disembarked. This cycle is reversed for departure. When this order of sequence is ignored you reduce your levels of safety and introduce potential for error.
• Aircraft Diamond: From the nose, to the wingtip, to the tail, is an imaginary line creating a diamond shape around the aircraft. This is a safety diamond that prohibits any vehicles being driven or parked within this diamond. On a turboprop aircraft there are many low lying areas that could incur damage from a vehicle driving within this diamond area. Unfortunately familiarity amongst ramp staff mean that over time barrows are driven closer and closer to an aircraft instead of being manually manoeuvred in, and vehicles are driven underneath wings to expedite tasks. This is a common cause of damage to aircraft.
• Loading: Ramp staff must be aware of the aircraft they are loading and its hold limitations. If they are not familiar with the aircraft type they must either be accompanied by a more experienced member of staff or know where to find pertinent loading information for the aircraft. Either from the placard located in most aircraft holds or in the airlines ground operations manual. They need to be familiar with the process for shoring items to ensure restraint during flight with the most common solution to stack baggage around an item. They also need to be aware of stowage and separation of certain baggage items, i.e. not loading an animal in the hold with a medical consignment of blood. Certainly they must be acutely aware of safety practices when driving and working on the ramp.
• Refuelling: At some regional airport the function of refuelling aircraft is performed by airline ramp staff. Usually they receive training from the aviation fuel provider and conform to fuel company procedures. Although when auditing an aircraft turnaround you can observe the refuelling process ensuring the correct positioning of the tanker, the use of the bonding strap and the operation of the aircraft APU are all correctly actioned.
In the regional turboprop airports huge quantities of cargo are not common. Therefore check-in staff are generally trained to a basic standard in the acceptance of everyday cargo items such as animals. The carriage of dangerous goods is usually very limited and tends to encompass dry ice, and medically associated items such as bloods and organs. All members of staff accepting cargo must hold a current dangerous goods and security awareness certificate.
• Signage: It is a New Zealand Civil Aviation requirement Rule Part 92.177 – Carriage of Dangerous Goods, that dangerous good signage is prominently displayed at cargo acceptance counters providing information about the carriage of dangerous goods to members of the public.
• Scales: Important for accurately calculating the weight of cargo for the load sheet and charging the customer for often expensive air carriage. With heavy use and general wear and tear it is not uncommon for scales to weigh heavy or light, subsequently an annual calibration of scales is required with each scale labelled with a certificate of calibration and expiry date.
• Security of Items: Problematic in small regional airports is customer familiarity reducing the level of security for items. Mail bags will be left by staff behind a counter for the courier driver to collect, or a taxi driver will leave a parcel on the counter for travel on behalf of a regular cargo customer. Airlines operate a “Known Shippers List” whereby companies that frequently send cargo by air can reduce security checks and paperwork at the airport by complying with a security audit conducted on their organisation by the airline. However, regional airport staff can confuse the known shippers, with people they know well. They are two entirely different customers with completely different security classifications. Unfortunately this is where familiarity leads to procedures not being correctly carried out and reduces the layers of security defence.
This is a significant portion of the audit and necessary in ensuring staff are current in their roles.
• Traffic Staff: This encompasses all staff who would essentially not load baggage. Their roles in regional turboprop airlines are quite varied and multi disciplined from check-in, departure and arrival procedures, missing baggage, load control and business lounge functions. They all need to be current in dangerous goods and security awareness, accomplished through an initial classroom or computer based training course followed by bi-annual refreshers. Additionally if their role encompasses load control they are subject to airline specific requirements with records showing initial classroom training in load control including any bi-annual re-currency training refreshers attended.
• Ramp Staff: Training records must show they are current in dangerous goods and security awareness, accomplished through an initial classroom or computer based training course followed by bi-annual refreshers. Additionally they must have airline authorisations in their records allowing them to de-ice, refuel or service toilets on company aircraft. No member of ramp staff should be performing any of these functions unless they have had specific training which must be documented and shown in their file. If an aircraft sustains damage or a person incurs injury the training records are reviewed ensuring the member or ramp staff has been correctly trained in procedures.
An airline operating from a regional airport will have numerous manuals all containing carefully documented procedures. These will comprise of the airlines own manuals and an airports manual. Usually these are updated through amendments, and must be carefully checked during the audit for currency. Some manuals are rarely updated and others such as a passenger handling manual may receive copious amounts of updates throughout the year. Some amendments will be of little importance to staff whilst others may document a crucial change to an operating procedure, i.e. a revised procedure to open an aircraft hold. The airline station manager is responsible for ensuring all amendments are scrutinised and any relevant items are conveyed in a timely manner to staff.
Airport Emergency Procedures
This specifically relates to the airlines preparation for an emergency at their airfield.
• Local Airport Exercise: At least bi-annually the local airport authority would conduct a simulated emergency exercise. This can vary from a full scale emergency simulation with all key players taking part i.e. emergency services to a simple desktop exercise. Surprisingly the degree of interaction the airline has in any role play situation is very dependent on the relationship between the airlines station manager and the airport authority. Some airline operators at regional airports are closely involved in staged airport emergencies and others play no part at all.
• Local Airport Authority Emergency Plan and Review: The airlines station manager is responsible for ensuring all contact information and airline details in this plan are current such as airline contact details and staff telephone numbers. Including involvement in reviewing the local plan ensuring it remains current and effective for the airline operator’s emergency needs.
• Airline Emergency Exercises: Airlines have different currency requirements in conducting their own emergency exercises. During the audit process a review would be made of the last airline specific exercise conducted. This could be a simple desk top exercise whereby the station manager runs through emergency airline and airport procedures with staff or a larger airline operating their own full scale emergency exercise. Generally an annual emergency exercise of some form run by the airlines station manager, the airline or the airport is required.
Airlines and airports receive specific security audits from the NZCAA so an in depth focus on security at the time of an annual airline airport audit is not usual. Although security is checked throughout the course of the audit with particular attention paid to certain areas.
• Departure Gate: At the majority of New Zealand regional airports served by turboprop aircraft you are not required to undergo security checks prior to boarding therefore the departure gate is literally a door out onto the aircraft ramp. This area should be checked for security with access controlled through a locked door. The signage is covered under NZCAA requirement Rule Part 92.179 – Carriage of Dangerous Goods signage must be displayed at each aircraft boarding area alerting passengers to items not to be carried on board the aircraft. Additionally signage prohibiting the use of cell phones on the ramp must be visible at the departure gate.
• Aviation Security Identification Cards: There are few airports within New Zealand that require staff to hold an AVSEC identification card. Some regional airports although not required to do so furnish their staff with security ID’s, others find the process cost prohibitive. If the airport is a security classified aerodrome then during the audit staff should be randomly checked for correctly displaying cards. Additionally staff records are checked for an adequate tracking system of ID cards and expiries.
• Bomb Threat Procedures: Bomb threat cards should be located by all telephones in the airlines offices and should be readily accessible to staff should they take a call affecting security. These cards provide tick boxes to help ascertain the level of threat. picture
• Overnight Security: What measures are in place ensuring the security of aircraft at night, i.e. security patrols or close circuit television.
• Aircraft Security: Aircraft can be locked, but it is not a common practice amongst commercial turboprop operators within New Zealand. Keys can get lost or difficulties can arise if the Captain has locked an aircraft and staff are restricted access. Another method is placing a sticker over the door and fuselage, once the door has been opened the sticker is torn and showing the aircraft has been accessed. Thankfully few incidents have occurred within New Zealand whereby commercial aircraft have been unlawfully entered.
• Illumination: This pertains to the level of lighting on the aircraft ramp area throughout the night, as increased visibility is an effective deterrent for people gaining unlawful access to aircraft. Again not essential but it does add another line of security defence.
• Physical Security Measures: This is a general observation of access doors at the boarding gate and baggage or tarmac areas and how they are managed by. Whilst some airports do provide security officers not all regional ports are so fortunate.