Developing a Aircraft Turnaround Management System. A Case of National Handling Services

Bachelor Thesis, 2017

42 Pages, Grade: 1




1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background to the study
1.3 Problem Statement
1.4 Research Objectives
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Significance of the Study
1.7 Limitations of the study
1.8 Scope of the study
1.9 Organisation of the study

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Global Overview
2.3 Turnaround Activities
2.4 Importance of Turnaround Punctuality
2.5 Preparation for Aircraft Turnaround
2.6 Managing Turnaround Operations
2.7 Factors influencing turnaround time
2.8 Theoretical perspectives
2.8.1 Introduction
2.8.2 Taylor School of Scientific Management
2.9 Study’s Conceptual Framework
2.10 Summary

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research design
3.3 Research population
3.4 Research sample and sampling procedure
3.5 Research Instrument
3.6 Data Collection Procedure
3.7 Reliability and Validity
3.8 Data Presentation and Analysis techniques
3.8.1 Quantitative Data Analysis
3.8.2 Qualitative data analysis
3.9 Ethical Considerations.
3.10 Chapter Summary


Appendix A: In depth Interview guide

Appendix B: Consent Form

Appendix C: Flowchart of the Aircraft turnaround management system


1.1 Introduction

This dissertation reports on how the National Handling services and the airlines it serves can implement a Real time Turnaround Management System to improve turnaround punctuality. This chapter introduces the research project beginning with the background to the study, problem statement, research objectives,research questions, research scope, and significance of the study limitations of the study.

1.2 Background to the study

According to International Air Transport Association (Anon., 2016)it anticipates 7.2 billion passengers to travel by air in the year 2035, nearly doubling the 3.8 billion travellers in 2016 and billions of tons cargo ((Anon., 2016)). Increasing demand of air transport predictions are based on 3.7% annual Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR). Thus, as the demand for air travel over the next two decades doubles, it means flight handling should also improve and be more efficient to deal with the large influx of passengers. Growth will put pressure on the handlers and the information systems should also evolve in trying to cope with the demand and others elements need to develop to be ready for the growing number of flyers. This trend signals an increase in demand for the 30 minutes turn-around, represents mostly business travellers that put a high value on their time, and aggravates the pressure for punctuality and efficiency on airport operations (Kadza & Hromádka, 2011). Aircraft turnaround, which is the core of the handling business, can be defined as the process of preparing the plane for the next flight. This process is accomplished by the simultaneous work of different operational departments to prepare the aircraft for its next flight. Aircraft turnaround process is established in a defined period of time, under any given circumstances, and has to be done without wasting time or resources. Turnaround time in short refers to the time between on block and off block of aircraft (Wu & Caves, 2004)

In addition, the global airport ground handling business is estimated to be worth over 80-100 billion USD per annum according to its trade association ((Anon., 2016)Flight handling status is growing globally due to high volumes of passengers using air transport and also the number of carriers is significantly increasing to support the high demand of air travel. Furthermore, the introduction of larger aircraft to long haul flights (e.g. A380 and 747-8) is expected to cause increased ramp congestion, requiring effective management of flights being handled by Ground Handling Companies. Subsequently, airports and ground service providers must utilize the available resources in the best possible way in order to cope with the new trends. Ground handling broadly comprises all those services required by an aircraft between landing and takeoff. For example, marshalling of aircraft, loading/unloading, refuelling, baggage handling and passenger handling. An airline may choose to provide services (self-handling) or contract with another company (outsourced/third party handling).

The number of airlines which operate in Zimbabwe is steadily increasing especially as new infrastructure is being built to retain airline and the aviation industry. Handling Services should also improve to attract more airlines in the region. In Zimbabwe the National Handling Service (NHS) operates on a Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) ground handling concession which covers passenger, ramp and cargo handling. It is the only company with the passenger handling concession but plays second to Aviation Ground Services in cargo handling which handles more than 60% of the market. National Handling Service (NHS) is the main ground handling service provider in the aviation industry in Zimbabwe. The company was formed by Air Zimbabwe and Ground Handling Industry (GHI) of United Kingdom in 1989. It was incorporated on the 8th of September 1989, with the main aim of giving services that is passenger and cargo handling at all airports where commercial flights operated from (Anon., 2017). NHS vision is to be a world class provider of aviation ground handling services by 2020. However, the fulfilment of this vision will need the company to also adapt to the changing environment in the sector.

It is important to note that the air industry is a huge and complex industry which deals with operational problems which vary from different areas. Airlines aim at providing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment. The air transportation services are divided into two types namely: passengers and cargo transportations. Passenger airlines solely carry passengers and some carry additionally carry small cargo. On the other hand, cargo airlines are established to carry only cargo (Rizal 2016). Cargo airlines do not have seats and no passengers are allowed into the cargo aircrafts. This study will only gather the information related to turnaround operations for passenger airlines because the turnaround processes are different.

1.3 Problem Statement

Despite the organization fully recognizing that operational efficiency is needed to flight handling management is needed to meet the challenges posed by the tight schedule of airline business, NHS operates without a dedicated platform for Turnaround management. Furthermore, NHS operates with no real-time turnaround management systems whereby the station manager can monitor turnaround activities on the ground[T2].

NHS faces challenges in gathering information of flight handling as well as the incidents at the Ramp due to a tight budget and limited resources to monitor every corner of the Big Airports. Moreover, it lacks a centralized platform for turnaround activity reporting which can be fully utilized by Airlines and Ground Handlers. Studies on the subject of turnaround have been conducted globally and regionally and looked at the various aspects of it: monitoring aircraft turnaround operations – framework development, application and implications for airline operations (Wu, 2008); analysis of aircraft turnaround time (Timajo, et al., 2014) the turnaround time of an aircraft : ( More & Sharma, 2014)) and real-time aircraft turnaround operations manager ((Makhloof, et al., 2014)evaluating aircraft turnaround process in the framework of airport design and airline behaviour ((Wu & Caves, 2004) Specific to Zimbabwe studies on turnaround have focused on the effectiveness of customer retention strategies in managing customer attrition in the airline industry (Karisambudzi, 2014)In addition, studies have examined an analysis of the forces that determine the competitive intensity in the airline industry and the implication of the strategy (Nhuta, 2016)Further studies have looked at the mediating influence of passenger satisfaction on the relationship between passenger loyalty programmes and passenger loyalty /However, there is little empirical evidence in Zimbabwe on turnaround management. It is against this background that the study will develop a web based turnaround management system to improve the operational efficiency of ground handling.

1.4 Research Objectives

The following research objectives describe what the researcher aims to achieve by the study:

i. To determine the factors that influence aircraft turnaround punctuality;
ii. To explore perceptions surrounding turnaround activities as well as deep seated reasons that influence turnaround punctuality and
iii. To find out about solutions to aircraft turnaround punctuality.

1.5 Research Questions

i. Which factors influence turnaround punctuality?
ii. How do perceptions surrounding turnaround activities influence turnaround punctuality
iii. How much do key informants know about the solutions to turnaround problems?

1.6 Significance of the Study

The present study will contribute to the understanding of the importance of turnaround management in the aviation industry, an important study in a country which is experiencing an increase in the number of passengers and airlines. Research related to turnaround management in Zimbabwe is scarce despite the importance of turnaround. The present study seeks to fill this gap in the existing literature by systematically developing a web based turnaround management system. Additionally, the study also examines how much time is spent on the ground by airlines. The findings of the present study will help policy makers to develop strategies that are needed to be informed by contextual empirical evidence in order to achieve their objectives. Thus, this study contributes by providing evidence, which can be used by airlines and ground handling service providers. The researcher will be able to contribute to the pool of knowledge as well as attaining his degree as it is required for the partial fulfilment of his Business Management and Information Technology Honors degree by the university.

1.7 Limitations of the study

The findings from this study should be viewed within the context of the following limitations. The results of the study cannot be generalised to the turnaround time of all airlines in Zimbabwe because the sample came from only from three airlines.

1.8 Scope of the study

The study focuses on the turnaround management of aircrafts by National Handling Services with particular reference to Victoria falls International Airport and the study will be conducted onlocal carriers such as Fast Jet Airline, Fly Africa and Rainbow Airlines.

1.9 Organisation of the study

This dissertation consists of 5 chapters. Following the introductory chapter, chapter two, deals with the literature review and the theoretical framework. Chapter three deals with the research methodology, chapter four examines data analysis and interpretation. Chapter five is devoting to summary, conclusion and recommendations.


2.1 Introduction

Following the introductory chapter, the present chapter looks at literature review and the theoretical framework that guides the present study. First, the global and regional perspective of Air transport industry. Second, the literature review looks at the turnaround activities, importance of turnaround and preparation of aircraft turnaround. Third, the management of turnaround operations and factors influencing turnaround punctuality. The chapter also covered the Taylor’s School of Scientific Management theory which informs theoretical foundation of the study, which is built on efficiency and competitiveness motivation of employees. Last, the chapter presents the conceptual framework

2.2 Global Overview

According to (Bernard, 2011) , literature review is an extraction of accumulated knowledge that is learnt from what others have already published(Yin, 2003)also concurs with the above definition when he argues that it is a process which involve research and evaluation of the available literature in the given subject area.Air transportation is a growing sector that carried over 2.2 billion passengers and 41million tonnes of freight in 2008 (Anon., 2016)Projections have shown each year the sector is continuing to grow. The projected annual growth rate for international air traffic by region from 2014-2034, Africa 5.4% , Asian Pacific 5.1%, Latin America and Caribbean 4.7 % Middle East 6.0 % ,North America 2.7 % and Europe 3.6%.( Aviation beyond Borders, 148).

The developing countries accounts for 5.0% of the growth rate for international air traffic. The African aviation market has the greatest potential for growth out of the global regions despite it being a comparatively young industry and servicing a large and rapidly developing population (150). In addition, the industry employed 6.8 million people and made a contribution of $72.5 billion to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). ( ). In Southern Africa, South Africa airports handle over a million passengers and 4 out 8 of airports are found within South African territory (Fact Finding, 2015).

Airlines are expected to prepare and keep abreast to the ever increasing volumes of passengers and maintain aircraft turnaround operations. (Wu, 2008)defined aircraft turnaround operations as the activities conducted to prepare an inbound aircraft for a following outbound flight that is scheduled for the same aircraft. Subsequently, activities of aircraft turnaround operation include both inbound and outbound exchange of passengers, crew, catering services, cargo and baggage handling. In addition, technical activities in turning around an aircraft include fuelling, routine engineering checks and cabin cleaning.

Furthermore, there is need to follow up on all these activities during turnaround to bring a true picture to the airline operation control centre OCC automatically (Makhloof, et al., 2014)). The OCC allows quick and proper decisions with regards to tackles any obstacles, take informed decisions to flight punctuality and evaluate performances of all turn around activities. At present these control and evaluation performances activities are being done using manual methods and telephone communications (Makhloof, et al., 2014)). Although these are significant strides in capturing aircraft turnaround they lead to unreliable data and delays due to human interference. Thus, there is need to develop a flight turnaround management system for Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe.

Other scholars define turnaround operations as the activities that take place in the intervening period between the arrival of an airplane at an airport and departure of the same airplane. These activities include baggage handling, passenger deplaning and enplaning, security checks, cleaning, catering supplies, aircraft maintenance, and fuelling (Adeleye & Chung , 2006). With projected increase in the number of airlines and passengers globally, regionally and in Zimbabwe turnaround activities are expected to become an aviation concern. These operations if mistimed they consume significant time, resources and customers become dissatisfied. In addition, the efficiency and duration of the turnaround operation has a significant impact on the punctuality of flight departures ((Adeleye & Chung , 2006)). If turnaround activities are not completed on time, flight departure may be delayed. Turnaround activities impact negative on customer satisfaction and economic productivity.

There is a significant body of literature showing that turnaround operations are key to the air industry. For instance, to cater for acceptable delays, buffer time has been incorporated to the turnaround operations. The schedule buffer time in the ground time of a turnaround aircraft is generally considered to accommodate potential delays from late inbound aircraft and delays from aircraft turnaround operation (Wu and Caves 2003). The Aircraft Turnaround has been identified to be crucial as poor management of aircraft turnaround operations affect on time performance (Wu & Caves, 2004)

2.3 Turnaround Activities

There are several turnaround activities which are interlinked but starts with the arrival of the aircraft until the next departure of the same aircraft. During this time, aircrafts need to prepare promptly for the next flight then some operations such as refuelling , baggage loading and unloading , cleaning , catering and passengers boarding/ deboarding are needed to be done. All these operations are called “Turnaround Operations” or can also be called “Ground Handling Processes” or ‘Ground Operations’’The most used list of turnaround operations are stated below:

- Chocks on/off
- GPU connection
- Passenger boarding/deboarding
- Baggage loading/unloading
- Catering
- Cleaning/Tidy-up
- Lavatory Service
- Potable water service
- Routine maintenance check
- Fuelling

On aircraft arrival, different operations are handled; nevertheless they do not necessarily have to be done in all turnaround routines. There are different approaches to the turnaround operations by low-cost carriers and full service carriers. In the following part, these operations are explained in detailed and which operations are handled by which carrier are explained. These have been adopted from (Razal, 2016).

1. Chocks on/off

When the aircraft lands to an airport and goes to its pre-assigned parking position, first step is to place chocks in front of and back of the tires. The reason is that holding the breaks during the turnaround procedure is something damaging for the aircraft and that’s why as soon as the chocks are placed, the captain should leave the breaks. Hence, the aircraft is kept stable and safe during the turnaround process. Before the aircraft moves to leave the parking position, chocks are need to be taken out. No matter the airline is low-cost or full service, this process is handled in every turnaround of the aircraft.

2. GPU Connection

After placing chocks, another important process is to connect Ground Power Unit (GPU) to the aircraft. GPU is an external power supply which helps the aircraft to use the electrical equipment inside the aircraft while staying in the parking position (during the turnaround process) since the aircraft shuts down its engines. Depending on the parking position, power either can be supplied with a cable from the air bridge or if the aircraft is parked in remote stand position, then the handling agents bring a portable GPU and connect it to the aircraft.

3. Passenger Boarding/DE boarding

Passenger deboarding and boarding can be seen in two different ways depending on the parking position of the aircraft. If the aircraft is parked on the remote stand, then passengers are deboard and board to the aircraft via passenger(pax) stairs and they are brought in front of the aircraft or to the terminal building via shuttle buses. On the other hand, if aircraft is parked in front of the terminal building, then there are two options again, to board/deboard via pax stairs or via Air Bridge. Most of the low-cost cost airlines avoid using air bridges since it is more costly. They prefer pax stairs instead or air bridge.

4. Baggage loading/unloading

Baggage loading and unloading is one of the most time taking processes during the turnaround. In order to unload and load baggage, baggage handlers who work for a ground handling agent process these operations. First of all conveyor belt is positioned to the baggage compartment and then one or more baggage handlers go inside and unload baggage and put on the conveyor. When the baggage arrives at the end of the belt, it is loaded to the baggage tug and taken into baggage area in the terminal. The loading process starts after the check-in finishes or if there are enough number of baggage to load. The loading process is the opposite of unloading.

5. Catering

Catering is handled by catering companies which the airline is working with. Most of the full service carriers request catering in the turnaround process since they serve food to everyone in every flight. The catering is handled via high-lift catering trucks which are positioned to the left forward and rear doors of the aircraft where the galleys are. If the aircraft is wide body, there may be more than two doors and the catering will be handled from each door. During loading process of the full trolleys, the empty ones are unloaded. However, if it is a low-cost carrier’s aircraft (which are mainly narrow body aircrafts), then catering does not necessarily have to be done in every flight since not many passengers buy food during the flight. That’s why caterers load trolleys according to the estimated amount which will be enough for 2 or more flight legs.

6. Cleaning/Tidy-Up

Cleaning process starts after passengers are disembarked and continues until boarding. Many full service airlines take cleaning between each flight leg. However, low-cost carriers do not take cleaning unless it is really necessary since there is not much food consumption during the flight. Instead of taking cleaning, cabin attendants “tidy-up” the rubbish and take out when the aircraft arrives. This gives them the opportunity to reduce turnaround time and reduce cleaning cost of paying for cleaning agents.

7. Lavatory Service and Portable Water Service

Lavatory service deals with the drainage of the used water especially from toilets while portable water service reloads clean water to the aircraft. A lavatory drainage truck and portable water truck is positioned on both back sides of the aircraft. These operations do not have to be done between every flight for low-cost airlines. There is a consumption limit of clean water where the purser checks and asks for water supply if it is under the limit. It is also the same for lavatory service. If the fullness of used water exceeds the predetermined level, then the lavatory service is requested.

8. Routine Maintenance Check (Pre-flight Inspections)

Maintenance of the aircraft should always be done in before each flight to check everything is working well which can be referred as pre-flight checks. The aircraft technician goes around the aircraft and checks some parts of the aircraft and also adds engine oil and filter if it is needed. This is a routine operation which is a must to do.

9. Fuelling

Fuelling is performed by a fuel company either via fuel tank which contains fuel inside of the tank or via hydrant dispenser vehicle which is connected to the floor to dispense the fuel and transfers it to the aircraft. During the fuelling process, because of the safety, there should not be any passengers inside the aircraft. That’s why fuelling starts after disembarking of passengers and finishes before boarding of passenger. However, if the flight is a transfer flight where the passengers need to wait inside the aircraft, the fuelling can be supplied only with the guidance of fire brigade.

These abovementioned “Turnaound Operations” or “Ground Handling Processes” are performed by different operational departments to make the aircraft ready (Koluski, n.d.) such as:

- Passenger Services are responsible for passengers to be checked-in and boarded in departure.
- Ramp Services are responsible for loading of bags, and under-deck operations such as lavatory.
- Cleaning Company is in charge of cabin cleaning, replacing of sick bags and headers.
- Cabin Crews prepare the cabin before boarding.
- Duty Free is responsible for uploading onboard shopping products.
- Fuel Company is responsible for delivering requested fuel on time.
- Catering Company is responsible for uploading the new galleys and re
- Airport Authority is responsible for providing bridge service, boarding gates and custom services (unless it is a handling provider).
- Cargo Department is responsible for preparing related documents for cargo and delivering the cargo to ramp department.
- Fire Department is responsible for being in the parking position if there is boarding, and fuelling is performed at the same time.
- Flight Operations is responsible for preparing the load and balance sheet, and delivering it on-time.

In this respect, all these departments work together in an interactive way during aircraft turnarounds to accomplish the different processes that are displayed in Figure 2.1 below. Most of these tasks depend on or build upon another task. For instance, before the cleaning finishes, the passengers cannot be boarded, or before the crew boarding, fuelling cannot be completed.

Figure 2.1 Critical Path in aircraft Turnaround

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Excerpt out of 42 pages


Developing a Aircraft Turnaround Management System. A Case of National Handling Services
Business Management and Information Technologu
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ISBN (eBook)
developing, aircraft, turnaround, management, system, case, national, handling, services
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Tapiwa Mangombe (Author), 2017, Developing a Aircraft Turnaround Management System. A Case of National Handling Services, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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