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Why not board from the tail (and tow in instead of out)?

Why not board from the tail (and tow in instead of out)?

Old Sep 22, 16, 8:47 am
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Why not board from the tail (and tow in instead of out)?

This is something I've wondered about for a little while. Why aren't airports / operations designed to tow an aircraft into the gate, and to allow boarding from the tail?

Then I wondered if the thrust from most engines is too great, so that it cannot be directed toward the terminal, and so that it would require a second tow out.

Is that the reason?
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Old Sep 22, 16, 9:08 am
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
This is something I've wondered about for a little while. Why aren't airports / operations designed to tow an aircraft into the gate, and to allow boarding from the tail?

Then I wondered if the thrust from most engines is too great, so that it cannot be directed toward the terminal, and so that it would require a second tow out.

Is that the reason?
For starters, there's nothing to hook the tug to on the back of the plane, so they couldn't pull it in. Pushing it into something with the driver not being able to see where they're going seems to be not a good idea. And, a small adjustment could make for a significant alteration of source with small tolerance for error. When they're tugged out it is generally going into open space.
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Old Sep 22, 16, 9:49 am
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The precision required for a plane to pull in perpendicular to the gate, then have the tug back it in, while turning, to hit the exact spot (withing 10 ft or so) for the jetway would be very challenging and likely time consuming. When pushing back, the plane has the entire tarmac to back/turn into, with no precision requirements. Jet thrust away from the gate, firing right at the terminal/windows/etc, is probably also a bad idea.

Last edited by CPRich; Sep 23, 16 at 7:56 am
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Old Sep 22, 16, 12:55 pm
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Reasons above, but also 1st class passengers don't want to walk any farther than necessary and must be at the front. Making them walk the entire distance of the plane won't fly.
Plus the costs of ground crews with towing skilz needed for both arrival and departure and breakage when little rocks are thrown into the airport waiting area glass ... cleaning the soot from the buildings and windows ... there are just lots of reasons that facing forward makes more sense.
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Old Sep 22, 16, 1:00 pm
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For my virgin australia domestic flights in australia, jetways weren't used

people walked out to tarmac, and boarding using front and rear doors using stairs

faster

the safe parts of the tarmac were roped off for passengers (maybe 20feet around wing/engine), so you walked around the wing. there were workers watching for your safety


anything could be done... but tail isn't that nice (as compared to the front)
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Old Sep 22, 16, 1:49 pm
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
This is something I've wondered about for a little while. Why aren't airports / operations designed to tow an aircraft into the gate, and to allow boarding from the tail?

Then I wondered if the thrust from most engines is too great, so that it cannot be directed toward the terminal, and so that it would require a second tow out.

Is that the reason?
Boarding from the rear (which is used with some airlines/aircraft/locations sometimes) discussion has come up now and then on here:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...nt-rear-2.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...rear-door.html

As well as powerback from the gate:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...own-power.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...se-thrust.html

You may want to peruse the above for existing answers and experiences.
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Old Sep 22, 16, 1:56 pm
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In the early days of jetways, they were built straight out from the terminal and the planes would pull up parallel to the terminal. If the plane was long enough and the space was available, they would use 2 jetways-one for the front and one for the rear.

As airports started to become more crowded and more gates were needed, someone had the bright idea to turn the planes perpendicular to the terminal with the jetways now able to roll up to the side of the plane. Remember, it's more about utilizing the limited real estate the airports have to move as many passengers and planes as possible in the quickest time possible.
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Old Sep 22, 16, 4:00 pm
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
This is something I've wondered about for a little while. Why aren't airports / operations designed to tow an aircraft into the gate, and to allow boarding from the tail?

Then I wondered if the thrust from most engines is too great, so that it cannot be directed toward the terminal, and so that it would require a second tow out.

Is that the reason?
I can see a major slow down of the arrival process to the gate due to hooking-up the tow tractor and dangers of the clearances pushing tail first to the gate, nose in to the gate is way faster with the pilot driver using the aircraft docking guidance system where every second counts during arrivals for connections, unloading, loading of cargo, bags, fuel, catering. Spooling up those turbofans during departure to get the metal rolling would take some thrust and need a blast fence behind them, still would get a major sand storm of debris, not to mention people can get hurt or equipment damage after the turn into the ramp. I have seen nose in aircraft self backing out of a gate with engines in reverse thrust, just don't tap on the brakes during this maneuver. LoL
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Old Sep 22, 16, 10:37 pm
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Don't forget that at some airports like O'hare that they don't sometimes even use ramp agents in certain cases when the plane pulls up to the gate. The new automated parking guidance system tells a pilot how far they need to drive in and left/right by the automated signs attached to the terminal. Backing up they wouldn't be able to see these signs. Majority of time it is used when there is weather or ramp agents are backed up but still the future of what will probably come of aircraft parking as technology evolves and labor costs are cut.
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Old Sep 23, 16, 1:25 pm
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If you back the airplane in, you have to get the tail past the jetway to get to the aft hatch. This probably means that the jetway has to come farther out into the "courtyard" (for lack of a better term) *AND* the extending part of the jetway, that mates with the airplane, has to be significantly longer.

At one point, WN was experimenting with dual jetways at Love Field, to use both hatches. The second jetway had to go up, to go over the wing, and back down to the hatch. I stopped flying WN before I heard about the results. (I was only flying WN between DAL and AUS. At the beginning of 2001, I fell into a deal on a very-low-mileage 1999 Corvette, and driving between Dallas and Austin suddenly became enjoyable enough that I stopped flying that route.)
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Old Sep 23, 16, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by zarkov505 View Post
At one point, WN was experimenting with dual jetways at Love Field, to use both hatches. The second jetway had to go up, to go over the wing, and back down to the hatch.
AMS has a number of jetways like that. See http://medias.photodeck.com/e43cab61...20_xgaplus.jpg, the three gates on the right.
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Old Sep 23, 16, 3:37 pm
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Also consider the issue of weight. If you have too many people board from the tail, the plane will be too heavy and will tip. This is a problem, for example on B739s.
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Old Sep 23, 16, 5:34 pm
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Interesting thoughts, thanks everyone. That is a neat photo CyBeR.
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Old Sep 27, 16, 8:06 am
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Agreed: that is a great photo!

I hadn't realized the 787 was that big.
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Old Sep 27, 16, 8:22 am
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Not sure if this is still the case since I don't live in DC anymore - but when I used to frequent the DCA/LGA US Airways Shuttle, they would always board and deplane from both doors - in fact at one point I recall this being part of the marketing material to demonstrate how quickly and efficiently they'd have you out the plane and to the curb for your meeting.
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