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An Inside Look at How the Ground Crew Turns a Plane

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One of the most hectic scenes at an airport can be seen from looking out your window down onto the tarmac. People zipping around directing pilots, cars yielding to oncoming aircraft and catering orders being filled. But among all the chaos and movement, there is order and organization, and thanks to United’s Big Metal Bird series, we have an opportunity to understand everything that goes into turning a plane.

Previously, we’ve looked at the inner workings of flight attendants, and now we can see the tasks of the ground crew. These are the people responsible for bringing in aircraft, equipping them for their next trip and getting them out of the gate and ready for takeoff.

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The ground crew plugs in the air conditioning.

Have you ever boarded a plane and it’s a sweltering hot cabin? Well, the ground crew is responsible for connecting air conditioning, which is pumped in through a large yellow tube. The ground crew also plugs in the power.

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The food and beverages won’t refill themselves — that’s where catering comes in.

Then, we get a look at the catering operations. The food and beverages don’t just magically appear on your tray table — the galley is restocked with a variety of pre-selected items before takeoff.

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Keeping track of all the bags on board requires many hands.

Also, the ground crew’s responsible for getting your bags where they need to go. So, they’ll get a list of everything that’s coming off the plane — cargo, bags, pets, etc. — and make sure it gets to its final destination, whether it be at that location or via a transfer.

And on the flip side of that, they’ll load up the next flight’s luggage so it’s ready to go. As you’ll see, bags are loaded “wheels up” to prevent any from sliding back down the ramp.

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The cargo compartment carries everything from cars to pets.

They’ll also head to the cargo compartment and load up everything that comes through the carrier’s cargo operation. All of the odd-shaped, heavy, occasionally live cargo that needs to be transported — it’s all stored here.

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The move team will save the company fuel money.

After the aircraft’s been refueled, unloaded, catered and loaded back up, the move team will do just as the name describes — move the aircraft to the runway so it’s ready for takeoff.

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Sending the aircraft off is the final step.

And finally, the ground crew sends the aircraft and its passengers and crew off — probably not all the time with a wave and blowing kisses, but you get the idea.

Follow along with United’s Big Metal Bird series on its YouTube page.

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