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Maintenance Watch

Maintenance Watch (or Control) is responsible for maintaining the serviceability of the airline’s fleets throughout the network, by ensuring continuation of mechanical performance and reliability standards. Being located within the IOC provides for a primary interface between operational decision makers and maintenance expertise. The role requires high-level communication that may include liaising with maintenance resources around the network, as well as third-party contractors off-shore and airframe and engine manufacturers, for example. It may also require communication with a Captain while a flight is airborne in an attempt to trouble-shoot and ideally resolve an issue prior to the aircraft’s arrival. In disruptions calling for maintenance intervention, the role may provide advice, seek other expert opinion, or deploy Engineers and/or parts to various locations to rectify an aircraft that has become unserviceable. Another focus is to monitor the status of maintenance equipment on board aircraft and at airports, and disseminate this information to key stakeholders. For example, the IOC usually contains a Maintenance status board displaying aircraft with deficiencies such as MELs, U/S APUs, or airports with unserviceable equipment (e.g., U/S GPU (ground power unit)) or other conditions (e.g., insufficient manpower to conduct planned work).

Meteorology

Departments of Meteorology are usually government entities or agencies in most States. However, to augment the services provided by these authorities, many airlines employ qualified Meteorologists to provide a dedicated service. The role usually requires an individual with recognised expertise in meteorological science and extensive experience as an Aviation Forecaster in a meteorology office. In addition, there is a need for awareness and sound understanding of the legal framework and rules underpinning international aviation, procedures associated with airspace and navigation, and flight-planning theory and systems. The Meteorologist in an IOC is a valuable team member whose primary role is to monitor and analyse meteorological phenomena, provide operational briefings, advice and warnings, especially advising of any conditions (e.g., fog, thunderstorms and frontal activity, areas of turbulence, icing, and volcanic activity) that might impact the airline’s operations, including conditions cn route and those affecting origin, destination and alternate airport environments.

Aircraft Allocation/Planning

The role of the Aircraft Allocator/Planner provides a forward planning function within the IOC to ensure the operational fleet is legally and operationally prepared to undertake the flying program as determined by the commercial schedule. The role is proactive, generating a workable fleet plan that optimises aircraft usage in consideration of maintenance requirements and operational objectives.

Typically, the set of schedules received into the IOC prior to the day of operation does not take aircraft registrations (tail numbers) into account. So the actual task of allocating specific aircraft to each flight to create each flying pattern is part of the role of the Planner. The assignment of each aircraft is contingent on ensuring the aircraft capacity matches demand (predominantly a scheduling function, but once the schedule is handed over to the IOC, usually several weeks prior to the operating day, the planner can satisfy commercial requirements, manipulating the fleet by upgrading and downgrading aircraft types). Aircraft must also be operationally capable of performing the flying commitment, so selected aircraft may be identified in this process to ensure performance is optimised and any potential problem identified (e.g., payload offload). The aircraft assignment is also contingent on continued airworthiness (legal capability) requiring liaison with the Maintenance function to ensure all planned requirements and requests are met, or at least negotiated.

Load Control

Aircraft not only have both structural and volumetric limitations which affect the carriage of payload (passenger, bags, cargo, mail, etc.) and fuel, but the distribution of the load is critical for optimum aircraft performance as well as to enable efficient loading and unloading on the ground. As distinct from licensing or otherwise of Dispatchers, those who are responsible for the load planning and weight distribution of aircraft are indeed licensed whether these tasks fall within the Dispatcher’s function or to a Load Controller (or Load Master). For more complete description of the role of a Load Controller, see Avery (2018).7 In smaller airlines, the tasks may be combined into the role of one individual. Should any operating restriction or excess of weight result in an offload, the Load Controller liaises with the Dispatcher in the IOC so as to mitigate any effects well ahead of the flight departure time. From the flight plan, a provisional load sheet is produced, after which negotiation between the areas mentioned above reaches a desired load and balance situation, producing a final load sheet to be accepted and signed off by the Operating Captain. The Load Control Centre is usually a centralised function, for reasons of efficiency. Load Controllers are typically licensed (i.e., endorsed) to provide load advice for multi-types of aircraft. If the airline itself does not conduct its own Load Control, the role often outsourced, usually due to cost, either to another airline, or to a specialist organisation which could be located anywhere in the world.

 
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