Friday, March 9, 2012

What's wrong with this picture revealed

This one was perhaps a bit tricky if you're not familiar with how things normally work at Terminal 1, especially because I didn't show you how it started. That said, for anyone who looks at this everyday, one of these airplanes sticks out like a sore thumb. Let's take another look at the original photo:

Here, in addition to the Virgin America A319 on the concrete pad, we see a pair of Southwest B737s in play. Both have just pushed off their gates: The one on the right came off Gate 11, the one on the left came off Gate 13. For those playing along at home, here's a shot of the north end of Terminal 1 showing aircraft parked at those gates with the gates numbered for reference:

The following two shots illustrate normal pushbacks from Gate 13:

The first photo shows the usual push off Gate 13: Tail west on Delta, behind Gate 14. This sets the aircraft up for the concrete pad, and is the most common Gate 13 operation. We probably do this a dozen times a day. In the second photo, Shamu demonstrates the alternate way to push off Gate 13: Tail east into the top of the D-7 alley, behind Gate 11. This position allows the aircraft to either go onto the concrete pad or straight ahead on Delta, and, as seen here, can also allow an inbound aircraft to pull onto the gate while the outbound disconnects from the tug. We do this less often, maybe once or twice a day; it's generally only done when there's some benefit to the ground controller. So now, take another look at our special aircraft from the other day:

The question that immediately comes to mind is 'How did that airplane get there?' This Southwest B737 was parked at Gate 13, which is just beyond the right edge of this photo. As we've just seen, a normal pushback off this gate puts the aircraft on Taxiway Delta, either facing westward behind Gate 11 (not possible in this instance because the other Southwest B737 was pushing off that gate) or facing eastward behind Gate 14. In this case, they got it in the right place, but the tug crew somehow got the thing pointed northward on an east-west taxiway. I guess they were a little unclear on the concept; they did at least place the nose gear on the taxiway centerline. This operation would not have worked had there been an aircraft on Gate 14 at the time. As it was, I imagine the windows along the north side of the terminal shook considerably when the plane powered up for taxi.


  1. Ha ha nice one!!!

    I kept looking at the Virgin, it didnt look right......but what do I know!!

    More more more pls CV!!!

    John in Liverpool!!!!

    1. The Virgin America on the concrete pad is right where it's supposed to be, which is unusual because they don't often get sent that way, and as a result tend to mess it up when they are. Not picking on Virgin America here, as they aren't the only ones that find that area confusing. Sounds like a good topic for a future post - Thanks!


  2. So......the Virgin America.....there's nothing wrong with where she's sitting............????

    So the Azz end facing terminal 1....a NO NO...!!!
    I do have to say.......something about the different line-up's got my attention...........but that was it.....Damn I thought I was on to something with the Virgin America too!!!!

    Maybe sometime in the future...You can post a "WHATS WRONG WITH THIS PIC"......"FOR DUMMIES"...........HA HA..


  3. Not to beat a dead the ground.............. intuition Told me.....

    TOLD me.....something wasn't right..with the Southwest's and it's bum facing the terminal.......!!!!
    Thats Major......for an Aviation do associate with Geeks..right???..just messing with ya....(i think)

    CaptainVector....don't missunderstand...I am not making take Aviation VERY Serious...this one way conversation.........ehhhhhh

    bottom line......It's all in fun...and who can't use a little........


    whens the next exam.....:))))))


    1. Dear MissTWA:

      The "F" in FAA does NOT stand for "fun"! :D

      (but I think everyone would be happier if it did!)


  4. I remember a few years ago there was a kind of day-in-the-life of Southwest Airlines type show on A&E called "Airline" In one episode they showed a rookie tug driver pushing off of gate 3 or 5 at LAX. He got the plane pushed back without a problem, but failed to pull it up towards Taxiway D far enough before unhooking the tow bar. His fellow rampers servicing another plane at Gate 1 were not pleased when the engines of the plane that just pushed were spooled up and gave them a bit of jet blast to work in.

    Thanks for this description of pushback ops from Gate 13 CV...informative. Could you explain about pushback ops around a few other gates:

    What do they do at Gate 1...push all the way backwards to Taxiway D before turning around, or is it possible to spin a 737 180 degrees in the alley?

    How tricky is it to get that 777 into Gate 38?

    1. I remember when they were doing that show. The gate you're thinking of is most likely Gate 3, which requires the inbound aircraft to make more than a 90-degree turn to get into position. The gate is at the bottom of the alley, and it's a snug fit when gate 1 is already occupied. To get the plane out, the tug driver has to replicate that turn while pushing the aircraft backwards. Once it's out into the alley, the driver has to negotiate a 180-degree "spin" to get the aircraft facing out of the alley. I would guess that pushing out of this gate serves as the "Final Exam" for new Southwest tug drivers. If, as rumored, Southwest gets the bigger B737-800s, I don't think they'll be able to put that airplane on Gate 3.

      Putting the Virgin Australia B777-300 on Gate 38 has got to be an equal challenge. We were all incredulous when we first heard that they were going to use that gate for that flight. It takes quite a while for them to get either in or out of that gate, and more than once I've seen them have to back up and try again. When pushing back for departure, the aircraft has to come all the way out of the alley and out onto Taxiway Delta - backwards. This is actually a trap for ground controllers, as the operation can take so long that it's easy to forget that you gave them clearance to do that.


  5. Here is the footage from "Airline" of the pushback from gate 3A at LAX that is mentioned above:

    Part 1:
    Pushback footage runs from :41 - 3:05 and from 6:06 - 7:28

    Part 2:
    Pushback footage runs from 1:49 - 2:50 and from 3:35 - 4:45