How aerodrome operators can help ground-handlers survive post-COVID – EASA


By Adegboyega oni

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the majority of the flights around the world have been suspended with a severe impact in ground-handling business due to the absence of clients which has forced many ground-handling services providers to scale down or cease operations completely.

This resulted in a large number of personnel being unemployed and ground-handling equipment being abandoned at the aerodromes.

As aviation is recovering slowly and flights are resuming, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said the ground-handling sector is playing a vital role in the safe and efficient conduct of flight operations.

To protect the business of ground handlers, the EASA has taken some steps by initiating some recommendations to ensure that the provision of ground-handling services at the aerodrome is available and does not affect the safety of aerodrome operations.

According to EASA, ‘’since ground-handling services are provided to air operators and at aerodromes, which fall under the scope of Regulation (EU) No 2018/1139, it is considered important that the services are provided in a manner that ensures the safety and regularity of operations and in accordance with the essential requirements included in Annex VII of Regulation (EU) No 2018/1139.’’

Under the recommendation, an aerodrome operator is expected to:

  1. In case that a ground-handling service provider has ceased/ceases operation or specific services are not provided, make this information available to aircraft operators by using all the available means of communication, including the possibility of issuing NOTAM.
  2.  Depending on the State and in accordance with the National Regulatory framework in regard to the access to the ground-handling market, liaise with the National Aviation Authority to ensure continuity of the provision of ground-handling services taking into consideration the expected traffic demand.
  3. Ensure that unused or inoperative ground support equipment (GSE) is removed from areas that affect flight operations and aircraft servicing, and stored in a manner that it does not pose a risk to persons or aircraft in the vicinity (e.g. collision, FOD, fire, etc.). Designation of specific areas may be required.
  4. Coordinate and ensure the ground handling service provider has developed a return-to-operations plan.
  5. Require that the ground-handling service providers have appropriately checked the GSE before it is returned to service by maintenance staff.
  6. 6. Ensure that persons who are allowed unescorted access to the apron have received the required refresher training in regard to the safety and operational procedures on the apron in accordance with ADR.OR.D.017. Personnel should be briefed on any new or amended procedures.
  7. Not allow the operation of vehicles or equipment by any person who does not hold a valid apron driving authorisation or an equivalent in accordance with ADR.OPS.B.025.
  8. 8. Ensure that newly hired personnel who are operating centralized aerodrome infrastructure facilities, such as boarding bridges, visual docking guidance systems, etc. are trained to perform the assigned tasks.
  9. Provide ground-handling service providers details of any operational limitations at the apron and the use of centralized aerodrome infrastructure.
  10. Liaise with all ground-handling service providers to ensure the establishment and implementation of local staff wellbeing programme.

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