All photos me too, copyrighted
While the start of spring of 2017 had brought quite a few developments in Croatian aviation, the main talk of the town has consistently been the long-awaited opening of Zagreb Airport’s (ZAG/LDZA) bespoke new passenger terminal – and its associated bespoke new apron – on 28 March. Much had already been said in the media about its design and furnishing, advancements and failings, costs and politics – so for my part I’d decided to skip over all of that and devote some space to the one bit that people rarely see first hand: life airside.
Having had the opportunity to experience its workings for its first two days of operations – inevitably with camera in hand – I’d quickly found myself with enough interesting material to put together a short “early days” photo story. Biased a bit (OK, a lot 😀 ) towards the Q400, these shots are not intended to be a tour of the terminal/apron nor a serious documentary piece – but merely a “first look” at the place our airliners will now call home… 🙂
For handy reference, the official airport chart (in PDF format) is available here.
CTN Squadron (or rather a quarter of it) set and ready for its first day of operations from what is colloquially known as “NPT” (short for “novi putnički terminal”, New Passenger Terminal). Notably smaller than the old apron – which had up to 22 stands – this new one only has 11 (E1 through E11), eight of which have jetbridges.
Welcome aboard! Even though they cannot use jetbridges due to the design of their forward doors, Q400s can nevertheless normally use these gates, with E4 – right in the middle of the terminal – pictured here.
One of the bigger sources of complaint is the FMT Airpark Visual Guidance Docking System (VGDS), which is… well, rudimentary at best. Unlike more advanced (i.e. partially or fully digital) systems elsewhere, this one is completely analogue and somewhat crude in guidance – since it relies on a human operator rather than an integrated laser system.
A wheel + towbar + little truck = pushback. Even though Zagreb had always had a push capability (including a pretty powerful tug sufficient even for the heavies), the “taxi-out” nature of the old apron had meant that it was very, very rarely used. However, since all stands at the NPT require pushing to get out of, this had necessitated a lot of dry practice runs by the ground crews…
Given that most of the visitors at ZAG are of the turboprop or medium jet variety, pushing is generally done in the manner shown. However, if need be, the airport has a heavy duty tug that lifts the entire nose wheel and is used to move the heavier stuff.
I wonder what the fines are for parking in other people’s spots… trying one of the standard non-bridge stands – E10 – on for size. Even though there are three such positions, their configuration and usability depend on the occupancy of E8, the only jetbridge stand able to accept a widebody.
The calm before the evening rush hour. Even though it seems large here, the apron is actually quite tight; indeed, a major criticism from flight crew and operators alike is the lack of maneuvering space and the existence of only one taxilane. This oversight became most acute during the day’s three major rush hours, when multiple aircraft arriving, departing and pushing at the same time led to long delays and unnecessary congestion – a particularly problematic issue for flights time-restricted by slots at their destination.
And finally, a bit of video from a push out of stand E4 on the Day #1… with a nice view of the entire terminal:
Update – Day 5: showing off the airport’s ambitions…
Aiming high? Nose gear position markings for the 777-300, A340-500 and 777-200 at stand E8. While all of these types had visited Zagreb before (some multiple times), not one had as of yet made a habit of it – though Emirates had recently announced it was planning to change that with a daily year-round 777-300 service to Dubai.
Markings for the 777-300, 747-400 and 777-200 at stand E10R. The prevalence of 777-capable positions reflect the type’s status as one of the most popular widebodies in town, particularly frequent during the summer on twice-weekly tourist charters from Korea.
Update – 21 May: it took me until Day #53, but I’d finally managed to capture the operation (of lack thereof) of the FMT Airpark VDGS. As is (hopefully) visible, lateral guidance is provided by simple optical systems that change shape with viewing direction – while distance is regulated by ground personnel through the (rather crude) semaphore.