Airside

Working in an airport is exciting. The constant motion and tireless activity.

When the plane pulls onto the apron it is chocked and plugged in to an auxiliary power line. A walkway slinks out and attaches to the door so that passengers and staff can disembark. Baggage handlers clamber into the hold and de-baggage. Catering crews pull up, raise their bodies to the plane door so that staff can empty and reload food.A waste disposal truck backs up to the tail of the plane. A clear tube gets attached and sucks out piss, wet toilet paper and clumps of shit. Once the waste is sucked out another truck links up and pumps potable water into the plane.

Aircraft refuellers pull up under the wing, couple to the ground and attach fuel lines ready to pump giggle juice. They check equipment and perform a string of safety checks as they try to meet the pushback deadline. The entire underside of the plane hums of spent fuel, warm metal and ozone.

Crowds of excited travellers and holidaying types mixed with bored business travellers bottleneck onto aircraft before they are seated and heaved into the sky by whining engines. 150 – 180 mph take off. Your body pressed into the chair as the polycarbonate plastic bird surges against gravity.

One plane leaves. Another comes in. The people in the Air Traffic Control tower work tirelessly to get timings right and allocate movements on the ground.

On the quieter aprons engineers go to work opening up cowelling to expose the muscles and veins of the turbines and stick their heads into tiny spaces or else crawl inside them completely until only their feet stick out of the side of the aircraft.

The jumbo jets are a site to behold. 747’s and A380’s loom in from the clouds like some kind of sky-dwelling leviathan. They drop slowly. Slowly. Their size gives the impression that they are much slower than the smaller planes and you still can’t believe that these monsters can land and take off in one piece.

Once, when operating on an apron, a 747 gunned its engines as it taxiied toward the runway, belting a whole fleet of people with harsh warm wind. It is one thing to see, another to experience. I didn’t have hair then but my beard blew wildly about.

Working on the airport you even get used to the sounds of engines. The high-pitch whine of a Boeing 777. The strange roar of the 737 (the roar is not the engines themselves but actually hot air being expelled and beating colder air. The reason why the Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner has dampeners is so that it does not produce as much noise pollution). The A320 has a distinctive whine on take-off. The A350 roars. The smaller A330, with a similar tubular engine design as the 737, roars unlike any other plane I’ve heard.

I know. I’m sad.