Hixie's Natural Log

2003-11-14 18:23 UTC An hour in the life of gate A22

The Braathens plane is parked at gate A22, the gate's bridge firmly pressed against the plane's forward left door, passengers arriving in dribs and drabs.

Outside, the plane's gate is surprisingly calm, nobody milling about. At the front, a cable rising from a panel in the ground is plugged into the plane, near the cone, on the right hand side. Orange and white cones stand calmly around the wings, presumably warning people of the danger of walking under them. Baggage carts are littered around the front and back of the plane, two at the front, one at the back. The baggage hold doors, both forward and aft, are open.

A baggage cart tractor drives past, stopping briefly to leave its sole cart behind, near the rear of the aircraft. Other airport vehicles (taxis, baggage tractors, empty and full baggage trains, unidentified trucks with squat shapes) keep passing the plane on their way to and from more interesting places, without paying it any heed.

Now the passengers are streaming in, and a queue has formed in the bridge. Another tractor arrives, and leaves its baggage cart at the back of the plane before leaving again.

Then, a short blue truck arrives and parks near the front of the aircraft, leaving its sidelights shining. A man gets out, and pokes at the plane, near where the cable is plugged in. He proceeds to look in the baggage hold and steps towards the back of the plane, out of sight.

A white van parks under the gate's bridge briefly to unload some unidentified bags into a nearby container. Meanwhile, a member of the ground crew personnel leaves the plane via the bridge, walks down some steps, and enters his own van. The two vans drive away in different directions.

The plane's taxi arrives. It is an oddly shaped vehicle with a small cabin and two wheeled prongs extending out of the front. Its driver calmly gets out and walks to the rear of the aircraft, possibly to speak with the guy who arrived in the short blue truck, whose side lights are still illuminated.

The stream of passengers has mostly died down. A couple of late arrivals in camouflage army uniforms walk down the bridge to the plane. A man in a suit carrying an overpacked briefcase and a file, which he is intently trying to entice into the briefcase, follows them.

Movement at the back of the plane. The carts are being moved around, empty carts pushed out of the way, carts still carrying baggage being pushed towards the hold. The taxi driver walks away from the plane, behind the bridge's support tower.

One of the cart tractors returns to collect the empty carts. The driver hops out, links three of them together, hooks them up to his tractor, and drives off, making a wide sweeping circle to get back onto the road. Vehicles are still occasionally passing the road, of all shapes and sizes. A squat flat truck with what appear to be manholes. A big truck with a two man lift on an extendible arm.

Blue truck man takes some orange paper from the front of the taxi and attaches it to the front wheel of the plane, unplugs the plane from its ground connection, and drives the taxi into the plane's ront wheel, where mandibles move out of the taxi's prongs and take hold of the plane's wheel. He then gets out of the taxi and leans back against his blue truck.

The taxi driver returns, pulling behind him a small suitcase, which he pushes into the hold, before firmly shutting the hold door. He walks to the back wheels of the aircraft, and removes a couple of rubber wheel wedges that were holding them in place.

Blue truck man walks off and finds another suitcase which he brings to the back of the aircraft, where the two men together shove the case into the hold. The taxi driver picks up one of the clearly ineffective warning cones on his way back and throws it to the gate A20 bridge tower, then gets into his taxi. Meanwhile blue truck man walks around the plane, presumably to check all is well.

A long and lean SAS aircraft moves past in the background. A white van stops unnoticed for a few minutes then departs, its mission unknown.

A man in the bridge picks up a phone briefly, then sees one of the gate clerks run down the bridge to hand him a piece of paper.

The man with the blue truck gets bored and walks towards the taxi, where he opens the door and begins chatting to the taxi driver.

Another SAS plane is taxied down the taxiway in the opposite direction. An short Air France plane silently moves back across towards where the original SAS plane went.

A short bright orange tanker truck speeds past on the road in front of the gate, quickly followed by a small empty baggage truck.

Someone in the bridge drives the extendible bridge arm back from the plane. The taxi pushes the plane back along the gate, blue truck man walking alongside. Suddenly, a puff of smoke comes out of one of the aircraft's engines! Blue truck man seems unmoved. At the end of the yellow line along which the plane has been pushed, the taxi unhooks itself from the plane and drives backwards, pausing only briefly for the blue truck man to put his orange piece of paper, previous attached to the front wheel of the plane but now retrieved, back on the taxi. The taxi then speeds away, quickly followed by the short blue truck which, once its driver has returned to it, makes a wide but fast circle and rejoins the road.

After a moment's pause, the aircraft makes a very tight turn and drives itself away towards the runway.

The gate returns to its earlier calm state, the bridge having now been closed from the outside environment by an automatic folding panel. A member of the ground crew is busying himself with whatever business is needed in the bridge.

As this happens, another blue truck, this one with four empty baggage carts attached, comes tearing into the gate and stops near the two abandoned carts. The driver gets out, and moves the carts about. A tractor arrives, and its driver has a few words with the first driver, before driving away again.

The blue cart's driver reopens the panel in the ground and pulls out the long cable and two rubber wheel wedges. After waiting a few minutes, he returns into his blue truck, which proceeds to release clouds of smoke from its exhaust pipe.

The man in the bridge is still pouring over whatever he is finding so fascinating. The man in the truck, clearly bored beyond help, cleans his wing mirrors.

A ramp vehicle comes racing through gate A22 on its way to gate A20, rapidly followed by an empty baggage truck. A black bird swoops down to follow them.

Gate A22 continues idling, oblivious to the frenzy of activity going on in the adjacent gate. A white and blue van with a line of red and white stripes parks in gate A22, although no-one gets out. The empty baggage truck that had sped after the ramp vehicle into gate A20 comes speeding back out through gate A22, unconcerned that mere moments ago, that same course would have sent it crashing into the now departed plane.

Smoke continues to billow out of the back of the blue truck.

An airport patrol car slowly drives past, apparently eager to find evidence of illicit activity. Gate A22's stillness appears to disappoint it, however, and it doesn't stop.

Another black bird flies about and then lands on the bridge. It looks around for a few minutes, but seeing no activity except for the smoke still pouring out of the waiting blue truck, it pecks ineffectually at the gate's roof then flies off, onto greener pastures.

Fog closes in. Finally, a plane uncertainly emerges from the fog and makes its wobbly way onto the yellow line, which it then follows towards the front of the gate. The man in the truck gets out of the truck, the man in the bridge opens the bridge's folding panel. As the plane comes to a stop, the bridge extends slowly towards the plane door, creeping forward centimeter by centimeter. The truck man plugs the cable into the aircraft, and an empty baggage trucks swings into the gate. The rubber wedges are placed against the back wheels of this new aircraft. The lights in the bridge come on, and passengers come streaming out, the bridge now pressed firmly against the aircraft.

Baggage is shovled out of the baggage hold and into the empty baggage carts. A car marked "127" drives into the gate and parks, although nobody gets out. Passengers continue to stream out of the plane, walking along the bridge and up the moving staircase into the terminal.

The door of the white and blue van with a line of red and white stripes opens and a man gets out, walks up the stairs onto the bridge, and into the plane.

The two baggage carts that have been sitting in the gate since before the previous plane left are filled to capacity, and the driver of the empty baggage truck hooks them up to his truck and drives away. The driver of the blue truck with the four baggage carts drives them to the back of the plane in a cloud of smoke and begins loading the baggage onto those empty carts.

A flat squat truck with what appear to be manholes in the top drives into the gate, followed by a truck with pipes. The flat truck parks near the front of the aircraft and plugs large pipes into the plane; the second truck drives on.

Another hour in the life of gate A22 begins.

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