Airport operations agents

tlove482

Well-Known Member
Do we have any that works in operations at airports? I have a few questions about that side of the industry.
 

ktsai91

Well-Known Member
I work in airport ops at a large international airport. Previously worked airside ops, but currently in terminal/landside ops in the ramp tower, primarily dealing with gate control & scheduling, and other related duties.
 

tlove482

Well-Known Member
I work in airport ops at a large international airport. Previously worked airside ops, but currently in terminal/landside ops in the ramp tower, primarily dealing with gate control & scheduling, and other related duties.
Awesome! What kind of schedules do y'all have? Sounds like it's shift work. Is it a Monday through Friday type thing or so many on and so many off? Also, is it more paperwork or mostly driving around and checking compliance?
 

ktsai91

Well-Known Member
Awesome! What kind of schedules do y'all have? Sounds like it's shift work. Is it a Monday through Friday type thing or so many on and so many off? Also, is it more paperwork or mostly driving around and checking compliance?
Yes it’s shift work. In Airside Ops we have day, swing, and midnight shifts 8 hrs a day 5 on and 2 off. Terminal/Landside Ops where I’m at it’s only day and swing shift and no midnight shifts, except we might be required to stay late for any last minute late night diversions, IROPS, or snow events, and we might be required to come in early as well. It’s 10 hrs shifts 4 on and 3 off.

Overtime is pretty common in airside ops. Unless you are in training you would not usually get weekends off. Where I work, there’s no rotating shifts. You get the same shifts and days off until you get a shift bid.

In Airside Ops, it’s more driving around and checking compliance but you also do some paperwork as well such as typing out airfield self inspection reports. For a good part of the shift, you are in an ops vehicle checking for compliance (ie. doing airfield inspection, continuous surveillance of the airfield, etc.) and taking various requests from the Airside Ops Duty Officer such as assistance with repositioning an air carrier aircraft under tow, picking up debris, scaring away wildlife.
 

QXDX

Well-Known Member
It depends on the airport. Larger airports have operations staff on site 24/7/365. Smaller airports have ops staff on during business hours, while ARFF and/or Airport Police handle operational problems after hours.
 

tlove482

Well-Known Member
Yes it’s shift work. In Airside Ops we have day, swing, and midnight shifts 8 hrs a day 5 on and 2 off. Terminal/Landside Ops where I’m at it’s only day and swing shift and no midnight shifts, except we might be required to stay late for any last minute late night diversions, IROPS, or snow events, and we might be required to come in early as well. It’s 10 hrs shifts 4 on and 3 off.

Overtime is pretty common in airside ops. Unless you are in training you would not usually get weekends off. Where I work, there’s no rotating shifts. You get the same shifts and days off until you get a shift bid.

In Airside Ops, it’s more driving around and checking compliance but you also do some paperwork as well such as typing out airfield self inspection reports. For a good part of the shift, you are in an ops vehicle checking for compliance (ie. doing airfield inspection, continuous surveillance of the airfield, etc.) and taking various requests from the Airside Ops Duty Officer such as assistance with repositioning an air carrier aircraft under tow, picking up debris, scaring away wildlife.
Thanks so much for your reply. I've been trying to get a straight answer about that for a while. I think I'm more interested in the airside of things but I like the sound of the landside schedule better.
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
Thanks so much for your reply. I've been trying to get a straight answer about that for a while. I think I'm more interested in the airside of things but I like the sound of the landside schedule better.
Landside is cool because you get more exposure to the business part of running an airport.
 

ktsai91

Well-Known Member
Thanks so much for your reply. I've been trying to get a straight answer about that for a while. I think I'm more interested in the airside of things but I like the sound of the landside schedule better.
The type of shifts of course depends on which airport you work for and maybe the specific department in that airport. Other airports may have rotating shifts or some other kind shift work. Terminal/landside at other airports may have a different shift schedule.

Since each airport is different, you would have the core duties such as Part 139 inspections and compliance, TSA compliance, etc but you would also do certain tasks specific to the airport. Smaller airports might require you to perform duties of ARFF, operate snow removal equipment, and/or do airfield maintenance on top of doing airfield ops.
 

tlove482

Well-Known Member
The type of shifts of course depends on which airport you work for and maybe the specific department in that airport. Other airports may have rotating shifts or some other kind shift work. Terminal/landside at other airports may have a different shift schedule.

Since each airport is different, you would have the core duties such as Part 139 inspections and compliance, TSA compliance, etc but you would also do certain tasks specific to the airport. Smaller airports might require you to perform duties of ARFF, operate snow removal equipment, and/or do airfield maintenance on top of doing airfield ops.
I'm not particularly fond of overtime so I'm trying to decide if this is right for me. I'm looking to get out of flying but I'm not really sure what I want to do.
 

ChasenSFO

hen teaser
I did it for 6 years at SFO, managed all the gates\counters\bag belts on A\G terms, a lot of the airports remote parking, all the common use gates on other terminals, had to yell at all the different vendors from airline ops to catering to fueling to rampers, coordinated all the construction work which required shutting down assets and managed all the terminal services work on assets like bridges, belts, ect and worked out restrictions needed from it all. We did ramp control for 1/4 of the airport as well. It's an awesome gig, but you need to be super type A to be good at it. No room for being timid and you need a dark sense of humor and excellent communication skills to get through it. Tons of multitasking too, but no more than flying a busy IFR approach or something. But you don't need to be very smart, I learned, just good at those things. You can make well over 6 figures at some airports doing it with 4 10-hour shifts and lots of vacation, but the better the job, the less the turn over. Even at my way underpaid Ramp Tower, it was next to impossible to get in if you didn't have a personal friendship with someone who was respected either in the tower itself or in airport\airline management. Not an off the street kid of gig, even for retired FAA(unless they were from SFO and knew us) and the like. Even worse in places like LAS where the pay is awesome and QOL is low. I've never gotten a call back and I always apply, and I was the trainer and had a senior controller titles. They rarely hire outside of retired controllers from LAS or the TRACON.

Something worth working towards for sure, but you'll have to work your butt off to move up from your entry level airport gigs and also network like crazy and hope eventually that leads to someone working in airport ops. Ever since I learned about the ramp towers during a high school internship, I was vocal with every boss I had at SFO that ramp control would be my dream job to get that out there. I worked my way up to customer service sup at an airline, lost the contract and started over on the ramp, worked my way up to sup BSing with the shift manager all night, he became a ramp controller, then he became the manager of one of the towers and hand picked me. The next 3 people hired in that ramp tower were all personal friends of mine, 1 who I worked with as a ramper and the other 2 were aviation photographers\ATC nerds that I knew would do anything and everything if given that job. Everyone who got hired that I didn't know at least had some kind of airline experience where they were in a supervisory\management role or were liked by everyone and were a good worker.

It seems to be contracted at most big airports I know of and not a city job, but it is a city job at most of the smaller airports I'm familiar with. Sometimes things go South, a friend of mine got a $14\hr raise when he got on in SEA, then 2 years later they took a $12\hr paycut when the contract changed hands. So it is a gamble like the rest of aviation, but that said, they almost always re-hire everyone in every change in contract unless people hate you. Seniority doesn't always mean better shifts(if you care about moving up), because all the big planning for the next day happens on the graveyard shift, so myself as the 4th most senior person and the 5th most senior below me both were working graves including 2 weekend days. For me I'm naturally nocturnal so I preferred this, some people would quit and cite terrible QOL with their kids just training on graves a few weeks, let alone working them. So gotta factor that in along with money. I also had to do 15 hour OT shifts dozens of times when people call in sick or something, but I would just pound caffeine and get through it making that double pay and had many months where my monthly salary was on track for a 6 figure income thanks to OT. Again, I was a 20-something year old due who loved my job and didn't have kids or a wife to keep happy, worked for me, may not for you.

Airside ops is very cool, but as it is almost always a city job, you have a TON of BS and a lot of luck needed to get in. Even being on a first name basis with the managers at SFO, I was never even able to get to the point where it mattered as my lack of a specialized aviation management degree always didn't put me high enough in the "points" column to even get an invite to take a general test along with people applying to tons of non-aviation city jobs and an interview afterwards with general HR people from the city. Only AFTER those 2 things when you go from a number to a name in the "pool" can knowing anyone matter as they can then pick you regardless of your "score". Even if you get the degree, they have added TSA security requirements where now they also want you take take additional security classes(costing a few grand each) or be a former solider\law enforcement officer as well which makes it even harder to get into big airports. At least airport ops\ramp towers you can always work your way into eventually by just being a hard working good person with a vocal goal of getting there.
 
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ktsai91

Well-Known Member
I did it for 6 years at SFO, managed all the gates\counters\bag belts on A\G terms, a lot of the airports remote parking, all the common use gates on other terminals, had to yell at all the different vendors from airline ops to catering to fueling to rampers, coordinated all the construction work which required shutting down assets and managed all the terminal services work on assets like bridges, belts, ect and worked out restrictions needed from it all. We did ramp control for 1/4 of the airport as well. It's an awesome gig, but you need to be super type A to be good at it. No room for being timid and you need a dark sense of humor and excellent communication skills to get through it. Tons of multitasking too, but no more than flying a busy IFR approach or something. But you don't need to be very smart, I learned, just good at those things. You can make well over 6 figures at some airports doing it with 4 10-hour shifts and lots of vacation, but the better the job, the less the turn over. Even at my way underpaid Ramp Tower, it was next to impossible to get in if you didn't have a personal friendship with someone who was respected either in the tower itself or in airport\airline management. Not an off the street kid of gig, even for retired FAA(unless they were from SFO and knew us) and the like. Even worse in places like LAS where the pay is awesome and QOL is low. I've never gotten a call back and I always apply, and I was the trainer and had a senior controller titles. They rarely hire outside of retired controllers from LAS or the TRACON.

Something worth working towards for sure, but you'll have to work your butt off to move up from your entry level airport gigs and also network like crazy and hope eventually that leads to someone working in airport ops. Ever since I learned about the ramp towers during a high school internship, I was vocal with every boss I had at SFO that ramp control would be my dream job to get that out there. I worked my way up to customer service sup at an airline, lost the contract and started over on the ramp, worked my way up to sup BSing with the shift manager all night, he became a ramp controller, then he became the manager of one of the towers and hand picked me. The next 3 people hired in that ramp tower were all personal friends of mine, 1 who I worked with as a ramper and the other 2 were aviation photographers\ATC nerds that I knew would do anything and everything if given that job. Everyone who got hired that I didn't know at least had some kind of airline experience where they were in a supervisory\management role or were liked by everyone and were a good worker.

It seems to be contracted at most big airports I know of and not a city job, but it is a city job at most of the smaller airports I'm familiar with. Sometimes things go South, a friend of mine got a $14\hr raise when he got on in SEA, then 2 years later they took a $12\hr paycut when the contract changed hands. So it is a gamble like the rest of aviation, but that said, they almost always re-hire everyone in every change in contract unless people hate you. Seniority doesn't always mean better shifts(if you care about moving up), because all the big planning for the next day happens on the graveyard shift, so myself as the 4th most senior person and the 5th most senior below me both were working graves including 2 weekend days. For me I'm naturally nocturnal so I preferred this, some people would quit and cite terrible QOL with their kids just training on graves a few weeks, let alone working them. So gotta factor that in along with money. I also had to do 15 hour OT shifts dozens of times when people call in sick or something, but I would just pound caffeine and get through it making that double pay and had many months where my monthly salary was on track for a 6 figure income thanks to OT. Again, I was a 20-something year old due who loved my job and didn't have kids or a wife to keep happy, worked for me, may not for you.

Airside ops is very cool, but as it is almost always a city job, you have a TON of BS and a lot of luck needed to get in. Even being on a first name basis with the managers at SFO, I was never even able to get to the point where it mattered as my lack of a specialized aviation management degree always didn't put me high enough in the "points" column to even get an invite to take a general test along with people applying to tons of non-aviation city jobs and an interview afterwards with general HR people from the city. Only AFTER those 2 things when you go from a number to a name in the "pool" can knowing anyone matter as they can then pick you regardless of your "score". Even if you get the degree, they have added TSA security requirements where now they also want you take take additional security classes(costing a few grand each) or be a former solider\law enforcement officer as well which makes it even harder to get into big airports. At least airport ops\ramp towers you can always work your way into eventually by just being a hard working good person with a vocal goal of getting there.
In my current role in the ramp tower, we did everything except ramp control and running the FIDs software. The airlines run ramp control at my airport. Also unique to my airport is a role called "river watch" where airport ops employees monitor ships along the river by my airport and notify FAA ATC when there is a tall ship greater than a certain height about to pass through an approach path to one of our runways. I don't think this role exists at other airports.

I agree, that who you know is very important in this field. Ops employees who previously worked at my airport had for example, one left to a certain airport and eventually a second employee who worked with them followed to the same airport. In addition, I used to work at a GA airport where ops employees somehow knew each other previously or were friends/relatives before they worked there.

Also, I didn't know you had to pay to take security classes. I thought they were supposed to be free. Was it to get a SIDA badge or to comply with additional security requirements?
 

AM011309

Well-Known Member
Also unique to my airport is a role called "river watch" where airport ops employees monitor ships along the river by my airport and notify FAA ATC when there is a tall ship greater than a certain height about to pass through an approach path to one of our runways. I don't think this role exists at other airports.

Not sure where you are but I believe BOS has a similar position, however, it is an ATC position as opposed to ramp.
 

ChasenSFO

hen teaser
Also, I didn't know you had to pay to take security classes. I thought they were supposed to be free. Was it to get a SIDA badge or to comply with additional security requirements?
No this has nothing to do with SIDA. The city of San Francisco wants Airfield Safety Officers(what our Airfield ops guys are called) to have former LEO experience or take specific security courses for a special certification. This is relatively new and eliminated lots of candidates like myself.

We did the FIDS, which was a lot to keep up with as we handled 50+ carriers!
 

FloridaLarry

Well-Known Member
In BOS, a Tall Ship thingy means the USS Constitution. On active duty since 1797, it's the oldest warship in continuous commission in the US Navy.And, I think the rest of the world.

And yes, it gets regular inspections and periodic re-builds.
 

ktsai91

Well-Known Member
@ChasenSFO just curious what is the training like to become a ramp tower controller? How did you get trained or how did you train your colleagues if they are not former ATC?
 

ChasenSFO

hen teaser
@ChasenSFO just curious what is the training like to become a ramp tower controller? How did you get trained or how did you train your colleagues if they are not former ATC?
It's about 6-8 months of training, the least of which is the ATC side and the most of which is the ops side. The trainer before me was a retired ATC badass old guy who would slap the table and scream at you, good times. Then when he retired close to 80 years old, I took over. I mean, how does one train at any job? I'd have them watch me do ramp control for 10 hours the first day, then have them do a few transmissions at the end of the day to get their feet wet. Then from the 2nd day forward, it's all them and I'm telling them what to do and teaching them how to think outside the box and doing everything in my power to prevent them from reverting from a ramp commander to a trained monkey like most of their coworkers. If people couldn't pass the written and practical test after 3 months, adios. On the ops side, it's very hard to train people who have never worked airline ops, or at least ramp or CS or whatever. I'd take them down to the ramp and show them the whole baggage system under the terminal, all the belts, customs, the gates one by one showing them restrictions, the PCA Air\GPU hoses, ect. They had to learn all the 3 letter ICAO airline codes on ramp control, now they need to learn the 2 letter codes for every airline because it is all IATA on the ops side. They need to learn where every counter, belt, gate, and remote spot is, as well as who does the catering, ramp, ops ect for each airline so they know what vendors to call. They need to learn who is worthless, and who you can trust to get things done. Who you can bend the rules with, who is a snitch. They need to learn how long it actually takes each airline to be ready to tow off to the RON spots after arrival so they can realistically plan, and when to report things and when to let them go. All sorts of complicated stuff on that side of the job.

The worst screw ups on the ramp control side are planes going nose to nose, ending up in tight spots they shouldn't be in, ect. The screw ups on the ops side can include planes crashing into jetways because we put a 787-8 on a gate that can only take a 787-9 or something, or a PCA Air hose being incorrectly returned to service and Air Italy turning it on to watch it flop around to their horror like a fire hose in a 3 Stooges skit and smack the crap out of their A330 cancelling the flight and creating a backlog of planes holding 2 hours for a gate. So the ops side is where there is way more to remember and way more chance to mess everything up, and that is where the hardest training is. The problem is they're 2 entirely different skill sets. Aviation minded people would come in and do well with ramp control then just suck and stack up complaints at "running the show" and not be able to remember and apply the hundreds of little memory items you need to absorb for that part of the gig. Conversely, we'd get former airline ops managers who killed it on the phones but were so timid on ramp control that even if they certified, we'd only ever have them on that side out of necessity. We argued it should be 2 different jobs since so many people fail out who could do one but not the other, not to mention that the ops stuff we do is usually a $40-60/hr position at other airports where ramp control alone pays a lot less. But we learned that although we could split it and get a big pay raise to the ops people, then that'd mess up our staffing to where we could no longer have 2.5 months of paid vacation, and we all agreed we'd rather take the extra vacation than a raise and seniority bump. Plus I selfishly liked doing both jobs and didn't want to be regulated to one or the other. LOL!
 
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tlove482

Well-Known Member
It's about 6-8 months of training, the least of which is the ATC side and the most of which is the ops side. The trainer before me was a retired ATC badass old guy who would slap the table and scream at you, good times. Then when he retired close to 80 years old, I took over. I mean, how does one train at any job? I'd have them watch me do ramp control for 10 hours the first day, then have them do a few transmissions at the end of the day to get their feet wet. Then from the 2nd day forward, it's all them and I'm telling them what to do and teaching them how to think outside the box and doing everything in my power to prevent them from reverting from a ramp commander to a trained monkey like most of their coworkers. If people couldn't pass the written and practical test after 3 months, adios. On the ops side, it's very hard to train people who have never worked airline ops, or at least ramp or CS or whatever. I'd take them down to the ramp and show them the whole baggage system under the terminal, all the belts, customs, the gates one by one showing them restrictions, the PCA Air\GPU hoses, ect. They had to learn all the 3 letter ICAO airline codes on ramp control, now they need to learn the 2 letter codes for every airline because it is all IATA on the ops side. They need to learn where every counter, belt, gate, and remote spot is, as well as who does the catering, ramp, ops ect for each airline so they know what vendors to call. They need to learn who is worthless, and who you can trust to get things done. Who you can bend the rules with, who is a snitch. They need to learn how long it actually takes each airline to be ready to tow off to the RON spots after arrival so they can realistically plan, and when to report things and when to let them go. All sorts of complicated stuff on that side of the job.

The worst screw ups on the ramp control side are planes going nose to nose, ending up in tight spots they shouldn't be in, ect. The screw ups on the ops side can include planes crashing into jetways because we put a 787-8 on a gate that can only take a 787-9 or something, or a PCA Air hose being incorrectly returned to service and Air Italy turning it on to watch it flop around to their horror like a fire hose in a 3 Stooges skit and smack the crap out of their A330 cancelling the flight and creating a backlog of planes holding 2 hours for a gate. So the ops side is where there is way more to remember and way more chance to mess everything up, and that is where the hardest training is. The problem is they're 2 entirely different skill sets. Aviation minded people would come in and do well with ramp control then just suck and stack up complaints at "running the show" and not be able to remember and apply the hundreds of little memory items you need to absorb for that part of the gig. Conversely, we'd get former airline ops managers who killed it on the phones but were so timid on ramp control that even if they certified, we'd only ever have them on that side out of necessity. We argued it should be 2 different jobs since so many people fail out who could do one but not the other, not to mention that the ops stuff we do is usually a $40-60/hr position at other airports where ramp control alone pays a lot less. But we learned that although we could split it and get a big pay raise to the ops people, then that'd mess up our staffing to where we could no longer have 2.5 months of paid vacation, and we all agreed we'd rather take the extra vacation than a raise and seniority bump. Plus I selfishly liked doing both jobs and didn't want to be regulated to one or the other. LOL!
Wow, sounds pretty tough.
 
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