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Operations

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In the beginning, Air France's business was concentrated in a 37,800 km network, which covered Europe, the Mediterranean basin, and South America, with an eastern extension toward Saigon.

In the beginning

As modest as it was, Air France needed to control every part of this network's operations. "Operations" refers to the optimal use of air routes, depending on flight parameters such as the type of aircraft, the load embarked (passengers, freight, messages, etc.), and weather conditions. It also has to do with potential incidents: breakdowns, inaccessible airports, and so on. This is the core activity of every airline, where all the aviation professions intertwine: pilots, runway, traffic, passengers, and maintenance.

 

After the war, a surge in air operations

This work was initially the responsibility of pilots and station managers. But the surge in the network and traffic after the war – 140,000 km of routes in 1947 – required creating specific departments. In 1949, each of Air France's 150 destinations had an operations department. Before each departure, teams in charge of maintenance delivered a mechanically perfect aircraft to the crew. Station departments did everything necessary for comfort, on-board meals, and leisure in travel. The operations centre calculated fight conditions, route choice, altitude, probable weather conditions, passenger loading, fuelling, letters, and messages, depending on the journey to be made. All this information was delivered to Captain before departure to draw up the flight plan.

  • Office of the Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes, Le Bourget - 1919 © Collection Air France
  • Air France head office, Maine Montparnasse © Edwige Lamy
  • Area control centre © Rémy Poinot

Permanently connected to the fleet

The Operations department in Orly was the hub for the operations centres. A communications network provided links with official air navigation departments, weather stations, and other stations. It operated continuously. It received nearly 500 messages every day from all parts the world – by radio, telephone, and teleprinter – and sent out just as many.
With its direct connection to aircraft in flight, inspection centres, and stations, it permanently tracked planes in flight, landings, take-offs, and was aware of every step of their trips point by point. In the "aquarium", nickname of the Direction of Transport building, small rulers showed planes quickly moving over planispheres according to the telegrams that came in.

 

Upstream: Scheduling

The Air Operations Division was created in 1964. It works with Scheduling, the department in charge of planning flights. Along with the IATA, they develop the long-term operations schedule (three years), which they constantly readjust depending on technical, economic, or political changes. This is the case until the day before at 5:00 PM. At that time, it's taken over by the operations division – now called the Operations Shift – which has grown over the years. In 1979, it moved to Air France's Head Office in Montparnasse, and was computerised. The little rulers were replaced by terminals and calculators.

 

The OCC, the Air France nerve centre

The Division was transferred to Roissy in 1990, where it became the Operations Control Centre (OCC). 200 people work 24 hours a day at this high-tech hub to coordinate the global network and deal with intangibles. Each shift manager, surrounded by experts representing all the areas of the airline, supervises the proper operation of Air France's 1,700 daily flights. It remains the operational core of Air France.

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