The UKs largest military airport, is hectic.

#1
Being the gateway to Afghanistan from the UK means RAF Brize Norton, the UK's largest military airport, is hectic.
Sharon Kean finds out how the airport is coping.

Nearly 200,000 military and civilian personnel passed through RAF Brize Norton last year, well over the population of nearby Oxford. More than 38 per cent of these were either going to or coming back from Afghanistan.

Wing Commander Simon Edwards, the Acting Station Commander, said:

"On any given day Brize Norton is trying to achieve a massive task.

"The increasing tempo of operations in Afghanistan means more and more flights going out."

So far this year more than 35,000 passengers have been transported to Afghanistan. The main route to the front line, known as the airbridge, is via Kandahar Airfield on an RAF TriStar or C-17 aircraft.

However, in a trial last year, charter jets were used for the first stage of the journey to the Gulf, to see if it would be a more efficient way of moving passengers:

"When troops get to the Gulf we take them off the charter aircraft, put them on the heavily defended military aircraft, and take them straight to wherever they are headed in theatre," said Wg Cdr Edwards.

"We now have two ways of moving large groups of passengers and have almost doubled the effort."

As with any airport, delays can and do occur. The difference between Brize and a commercial airport is the umbilical cord between the RAF station and theatre. If something happens at Bastion, such as a sudden need to evacuate wounded troops, flight priorities have to change:

"Communications could go down at any time or someone could be killed. It's a tough and unpredictable environment to work in," said Flight Lieutenant Olivia Steel, the officer in charge of passenger movements at Brize Norton.

Responding quickly to such situations has a domino effect on flight schedules. Arrival slot times at Kandahar are also crucial and can affect both departures and arrivals at Brize Norton:

"Ensuring an aircraft lands in safety in the dark in Kandahar takes priority over one that's come back here and is safely home," said Wg Cdr Edwards, explaining a common cause of delays to arrivals at the terminal.

"We know it's frustrating - these guys will have been travelling for 30 hours, they're tired and their wives and children are the other side of a set of doors," said Flt Lt Steel.

"We understand that. We see it every day and we do our best, but safety must take priority."

There are unique challenges that the commercial airlines don't have to cope with:

"Some of those can be attributed to technical faults - whether it's the age of an aircraft or the defensive aid suite, which protects it from threats on the ground," said Flt Lt Steel.

"An RAF pilot will not take a plane full of people into harm's way if it's not defended properly - we're never going to send the guys somewhere when we can't protect them."

Stories of overnight stays in the departure lounge are not uncommon and it is a tradition for battle-hardened Brize users to try to outdo each other with their experiences.

But today, luck is in for a group of soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment en route to Afghanistan, as their flight is delayed by just half-an-hour to adjust for favourable winds.

Brize Norton's passenger airbridge statistics have improved dramatically over the past 12 months - customer satisfaction has not been less than 95 per cent in any month this year, said Wg Cdr Edwards.

This is partly due to the use of charter planes, which tend to stick to the schedule as they won't be re-tasked by the military and don't carry complicated defensive systems that must be tested before they fly.

A new system for testing the defences on military aircraft while they are still on the ground has also improved reliability:

"We are seeing the results of a massive team effort behind the scenes," said Wg Cdr Edwards.

Other improvements include a new waiting area for families and friends at the main gate and better car parking facilities:

"It's going to be a lot more passenger friendly," said Flt Lt Steel.

"The last thing you want when you're being dropped off by your wife is to be searching for somewhere to park and miss out on that last hug and kiss."

These changes come as Brize Norton is set to get even busier. With RAF Lyneham shutting, Hercules and new aircraft such as the Airbus A400 and A330 will move there, meaning a jump from 29 to more than 80 aircraft, and the number of passengers passing through the airport likely to reach 250,000 per year.

Casualty evacuations

On top of a full schedule the RAF aircraft at Brize Norton regularly react to emergencies, such as bringing casualties back from the field hospital at Camp Bastion.

TriStars and C-17s are both used for aeromedical evacuations:

"We reprioritise and make it happen," said Wg Cdr Edwards.

"July and August have been incredibly busy - at least once a week we've had the requirement to go to Bastion and bring somebody back, and sometimes it has been as often as every two days."

Normally six hours are allowed for an aircraft to be turned around, but if necessary it can be done in four:

"We can pull the stops out if we have to - you do what you need to do," said Wg Cdr Edwards
 
#2
"the officer in charge of passenger movements at Brize Norton" - Flight Lieutenant.

Says it all, really.

"Will the self-loading freight please queue up to be sent to wait somewhere else."
 
#3
Idrach said:
"the officer in charge of passenger movements at Brize Norton" - Flight Lieutenant.

Says it all, really.

"Will the self-loading freight please queue up to be sent to wait somewhere else."
As with any airport, delays can and do occur. The difference between Brize and a commercial airport is the umbilical cord between the RAF station and theatre. If something happens at Bastion, such as a sudden need to evacuate wounded troops, flight priorities have to change:

Yeah fcuk the wounded and lets get you on a flight first eh :roll:
 
#4
Idrach said:
"the officer in charge of passenger movements at Brize Norton" - Flight Lieutenant.

Says it all, really.

"Will the self-loading freight please queue up to be sent to wait somewhere else."
Who do you think it should be? I'm guessing you don't actually understand the division of responsibilities within APOE Wing at Brize.
 
#5
Idrach said:
"the officer in charge of passenger movements at Brize Norton" - Flight Lieutenant.

Says it all, really.

"Will the self-loading freight please queue up to be sent to wait somewhere else."
You really don't get it do you.

They could have said "the officer in charge of loading the aircraft, Cpl X" - would that have meant that it was a Cpl who was in charge overall?

Or they could have said "the officer in charge of air movements process coordination, Maj Gen X" - would you then have thought that a Bootneck 2* was counting them on?

It was the DAMO FFS.
 
#6
Well done the RAF. 548 people processed per day through Brize on average - huge accomplishment! With such breathtaking statistics it makes you wonder why the facilities are crap, the staff both, Log Movers and RAF rude, amazingly unhelpful and seem to want to call everybody 'mate'. On the plus side, at least the constant delays and air of depression help you acclimatize to another shite six months on tour!
 
#7
Clip on the TV news sums Brize up really. Welsh Guards coming home on a charter a/c, presumably from an SBA in Cyprus. All troops having to queue up and show their passport to some jumped up movements NCO in a dayglo jacket.

As mindless as reporting 3 hours before, being moved to airhead rediculously early, failing to change wake up times when flights are delayed, feigning inability to identify rank, having kit containing weapons and ammo X-Rayed before operational flights, taking penknives off people and on and on and on.

And then they claim to be busy. Busy p!ssing people off
 
#9
Herrumph said:
... having kit containing weapons and ammo X-Rayed before operational flights, taking penknives off people ...
Have pity on someone who is too old to have been through Brize recently.

I was treated rather well in my day; please reassure me that the world has not gone utterly insane and that a monster of a Scots CSM, who by himself is capable of crushing the neck of a RAF flight attendant with one hand, does not actually have a dinky Leatherman taken off him?

And if I should actually be such an old mistaken fart that they do carry out such inanities, could some person contain his blood pressure for long enough to explain the purported reason for this stupidity and waste of time?
 
#10
Not as hectic as Lyneham when I was waiting in 'Reception' after flying back from Masirah on a VC-10.Only commoner on Royal Air Farce trooper,think it originated from Singapore,so personal weapon had to go in gun locker.All Royalty had cleared customs,so HMCE asked why I hadn't passed through-"waiting for me gun,mate".Female snowdrop starts giving birth,VC-10 taxi-ing away,HMCE clears off with raised eyebrows,Looney Tunes or what?Gratefully took 4 Seiko watches off my arm,and wished I'd been brave enough to wrap the AK with my SLR :(
 
#11
Shoite at movement control, shoite at propaganda.

The best thing about being at my age is never having to be moved by those tw*ts again.

To be fair the JCCC/Comp A movement that I have seen and experienced is IMMACULATE, world-class in fact so well-done you. However, in my day the 9 to 5 (says it all really) routine movement of troops is, in a word, EXECRABLE. From comments read it doesn't seem to have improved.

You do have to be careful with such constructive criticism though, I was in Cyprus a few short years ago when a TA officer/local MP rouled back through out of theatre. He received a portion of the "normal" as advertised version of the service and raised some points when he got back to the day job. A bit of embarrassing finger pointing went on and slowly fizzled out.

Cue a short time later and the aforementioned complainant came back to the island of Aphrodite on a MPs fact finding junket. He was cordially invited to attend CBF Cyprus, in office, no coffee. CBF at that time was an Air-Vice Marshal and had a one way straightener with the TA captain.

That's one of the problems with the RAF, they won't admit the service is p*ss-poor, they just get defensive and insist it's excellent. Bit like New Labour really.
 
#12
Old_nis

Fraid so

Allow you to carry rifle plus pistol and god knows how many mags onto aircraft, but must take off belt knives and put them in bergan (which you then invariably have to carry to transport)

Mags of ammo - fine sir. Box of pyotechnics - step away from that hazardous cargo right now whilst we call snowdrop.
 
#13
hairymonster1006 said:
Well done the RAF. 548 people processed per day through Brize on average - huge accomplishment! With such breathtaking statistics it makes you wonder why the facilities are crap, the staff both, Log Movers and RAF rude, amazingly unhelpful and seem to want to call everybody 'mate'. On the plus side, at least the constant delays and air of depression help you acclimatize to another shite six months on tour!
Oh dear RAF guys calling you mate, how awfull isnt life a bitch.
 
#14
I'm no fan of the staff of Brize or Lyneham, having had the displeasure of flying from both.

I simply cannot believe they actually try to improve the experience of the SLF, having had decades to improve and patently failing. They actually seem to enjoy fecking passengers around and get the hump if someone even hints at being less than ecstatic about the experience.

The fact that they will take tweezers off a passenger getting on a plane that is going to have a couple of hundred soldiers on it still stupifies me. If someone tried to take the planes with tweezers, they would be laughed at hysterically. You could do more damage taking a boot off and swinging that around.

The personnel in charge at both airports could do well to look at McChord airforce base in Washington State. despite the loggies and RAF's best efforts, they processed us with, dare I say it, military precision.
 
#15
The list goes on really. (Bit like me).

I flew out to Norway for winter deployment with 3 Cdo Bde, most of my Arctic Warfare kit and comfy gear in a massive holdall called a sea-kit bag. All baggage appropriately marked tagged and labelled.

Transit via Lyneham (normal disrespectful f-about by superior movers),waved goodbye to kit, weapons etc at hatch in wall.

One chalk of personnel, one Herc, one flight into isolated Norge airstrip, no other inbound flights that day.

Unloaded kit, weapons at corresponding Scandinavian hatch in wall and immediately initiated an, "Oi crab, where's my f*****g kit bag Report".

The reply was "Don't know mate you mustn't of put it on".

The bag turned up 6 months later at Lyneham, in the f-ing movers office still tagged marked correctly and tac-signed. In my experience those coc*s couldn't run a p*ss-up in my cocktail cabinet.
 
#16
bluntslane said:
Shoite at movement control, shoite at propaganda.

The best thing about being at my age is never having to be moved by those tw*ts again.

To be fair the JCCC/Comp A movement that I have seen and experienced is IMMACULATE, world-class in fact so well-done you. However, in my day the 9 to 5 (says it all really) routine movement of troops is, in a word, EXECRABLE. From comments read it doesn't seem to have improved.

You do have to be careful with such constructive criticism though, I was in Cyprus a few short years ago when a TA officer/local MP rouled back through out of theatre. He received a portion of the "normal" as advertised version of the service and raised some points when he got back to the day job. A bit of embarrassing finger pointing went on and slowly fizzled out.

Cue a short time later and the aforementioned complainant came back to the island of Aphrodite on a MPs fact finding junket. He was cordially invited to attend CBF Cyprus, in office, no coffee. CBF at that time was an Air-Vice Marshal and had a one way straightener with the TA captain.

That's one of the problems with the RAF, they won't admit the service is p*ss-poor, they just get defensive and insist it's excellent. Bit like New Labour really.
If that's Mark Lancaster you're talking about then I'm afraid you're talking shite. His 'experience' coincided with the worst period of Tristar availability and, it has to be said, a less than brilliant bit of support at Akrotiri. But - and I know this because I've lived and breathed it for the past 6 years - it did result in 4* officers taking note and a great deal of effort and money going into 'improving the experience'.

And actually, 'improving the experience' isn't the top priority. Deploying on ops isn't like going to Ibiza and if you can find me an instance of the airbridge failing to deliver to the operational commander's requirements in the past few years then let me know.

And, to reiterate, that's the operational commander's requirements, not yours (unless, of course you happen to be the Op commander :D ).
 
#17
I agree the service provided by pax staff has always been poor and despite recent efforts to improve it it still needs more work. Even completely civilianizing it if need be, but.....

If the average "pongo" wasn't as thick as mince there would be no need for stupid delays and having to put you through South C.

If your not sure why i'll give you a few examples:

Pongo A comes to Brize to check-in without passport/knowing flight details/without knowing where he is ultimatly going (happens every day of the week)

Pongo B thinks the miliatry does not have to comply with government/CAA rules and can carry on his person what he wants knife/gas canisters/rounds (what happens if plane diverts to Naples)

Pongo C gets drunk due to delay having checked in and fails to report, his bags have to be found and offloaded and he is shut off flight for being drunk on duty. Aircraft delayed.

I could go on but you guys know it all :roll:

MM
 
#18
auxie said:
hairymonster1006 said:
Well done the RAF. 548 people processed per day through Brize on average - huge accomplishment! With such breathtaking statistics it makes you wonder why the facilities are crap, the staff both, Log Movers and RAF rude, amazingly unhelpful and seem to want to call everybody 'mate'. On the plus side, at least the constant delays and air of depression help you acclimatize to another shite six months on tour!
Oh dear, RAF guys calling you mate, how awful. Isn't life a bitch?
You're right. There is worse that can befall you when traveling with the RAF. If I was called 'mate' by any of my own soldiers I would go apoplectic. Neither would I expect any of my soldiers to call some barcoded Crab officer 'mate'. It is a stark symbol of a sincere lack of professionalism and stereotyped chippiness.
 
#19
Mobile_Muppet said:
If the average "pongo" wasn't as thick as mince there would be no need for stupid delays and having to put you through South C.
And there the case for the prosecution rests. You'd get better service from Ryanair ffs.
 
#20
Idrach said:
Mobile_Muppet said:
If the average "pongo" wasn't as thick as mince there would be no need for stupid delays and having to put you through South C.
And there the case for the prosecution rests. You'd get better service from Ryanair ffs.
If you want to go on ops with Ryan Air then ****ing carry on.

Mobile Muppet and his ilk are clearly part of the problem. But so is an attitude that sees deploying on ops as the same as going on holiday when it comes to air movement.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads