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Working Under the Wing

GETTING TEAM USA to the London 2012 Olympic Games with the baggage the athletes need to compete successfully takes coordination across the system by hundreds of United employees who have laid groundwork for smooth operations for months.

The keys are careful planning and focus. And technology helps, too. The Baggage Alert and Reporting Tool known as BART enables employees to track every bag in real time through wireless scanning. For the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, for instance, United employees ensured that on the same day that participants arrived in Vancouver, so did all 839 of their bags. BART was a big help.

In London, in addition to seeing that operations flow smoothly during this high-volume period, co-workers getting ready for this year’s events have made plans to deal with some of the more out-of-the-ordinary scenarios they face while flying Team USA.

Ramp Services Manager Richard Miller gives one example, related to flying with Paralympians. “We’ve never faced the possibility of so many customers who use wheelchairs onboard one flight,” he explains. “Most wheelchair athletes have one chair for day-to-day life, and then they have a competition chair.” Team United is looking forward to the challenge of transporting all of them.

From helping to distinguish the pieces of equipment the athletes will need at the airport from those that can be transported straight to the Olympic Village, to developing special procedures for processing equipment used in competition shooting, London co-workers have spent months working out details to ensure smooth travel during the five weeks of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With Captain Mike Bowers

Q: What causes the vibrations occasionally felt onboard just after liftoff, as the aircraft begins to climb?
A: A few things. First, as the aircraft becomes airborne, the landing gear struts extend slightly as the weight of the aircraft shifts from the wheels to the wings. Then, the pilots open the landing-gear doors to raise the gear into the belly of the aircraft. Finally, the flaps and slats on the front and back of the wings are slowly retracted as the aircraft gains speed. Any of these movements can cause noticeable vibrations. Of course, flyers need not be concerned, as they are experiencing normal movements as the aircraft transitions from being on the ground to accelerating to cruise speed.

Do you have a question for Captain Bowers? Write him at askthepilot@united.com.

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