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The World Economic Forum is in full swing in Davos. The world's Rich & Beautiful are all GA-flying into ZRH, which is not one of the world's largest airports, and continuing on via helicopter or car.

eight planes parked very closely together on an airport

This is how the parking lot at ZRH looks right now. The runways are at the top right. If the plane at the bottom left wants to leave, we would need to move no fewer than five or six other planes.

How would this work in practice? I can't very well imagine the pilots just handing their keys off at the airport for some "plane valet" to move the plane whenever it's in the way. Are the original pilots on standby in some very close hotel such that every single plane's pilot can on short notice come in to move their plane, or to supervise ground operations moving them?

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    $\begingroup$ Pilots (most of them) are not in the "richest" group. The pilot will do maintenance and stay on call. At any moment (withing few hours) there may be change of plan. Note: I'm not sure that is the parking of WEF people, or just the usual GA planes (which are probably not needed) are moved there. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Closely related, the answers here might also help you. $\endgroup$
    – Steve V.
    Jan 18 at 3:43

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There are no keys to hand off. Most jets don't have any access controls - staff access trumps security.

Except on takeoff, large jets are preferably moved around the airfield by ground tugs, rather than taxiing. Airport staff will tug or taxi the planes to where they need to go, even if the pilot isn't around.

There's no special link between a pilot and a particular hull, the controls are the same. The staff making sure the parking brake is off don't have to be pilots. To give liability a wide berth, the bizjet's operator / captain can be in the loop, but it's not a hard requirement.

Modern towbarless tugs can operate without a pilot or mechanic in the cockpit at all, by lifting the nose wheel.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's also likely the FBO has a rough idea of when some aircraft are likely to leave. $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Jan 17 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ @ceejayoz - also if someone does wind up leaving "out of order" and they have to pull some other planes out of the way, assuming that the conference has ended or nearly ended they probably wouldn't push the other planes back into the bunch they would just leave them sitting out. It's also possible that the bunching up is only done during the conference when they know that no one is going anywhere, so that the planes take up less room on the ramp. Then maybe as the conference is ending they pull them all apart since they know most of the planes will leave within a few hours. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 18:10
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To Therac's point, airplanes are not valet parked like cars. General Aviation aircraft operate out of Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) based on an airfield. These operations provide overnight parking, hangering, maintenance, fuel and other services to aircrews while on the ground. Once parked and shut down, the aircraft is typically chocked and left with the parking brake off to facilitate towing with a tug or similar airport vehicle.

When there are high volumes of GA traffic to events like this, FBOs may use a section of the ramp belonging to them for transient parking of aircraft. Generally the ramp is sterile and secure (and if they have a large volume of VIP aircraft, FBOs also employ their own security forces as well as local airport police to protect aircraft under their care. Most VIPs travel incognito for safety reasons; very few people know about their arrival or departure. The FBO staff would be in contact with the flight crew and let them know of where their aircraft was parked on the field. If a flight crew needed an aircraft immediately or had proposed departure time, the aircraft would then be towed from parking to an area on the ramp for pre-flighting, fueling, catering and loading for departure.

Below is a video Discovery networks did about 10 years ago or so on Donald Trump's 757 aircraft, which features the additional difficulties and arrangements for operations from SheltAir FBO at New York's LaGuardia airport.

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