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(YouTube) Push-in at Dortmund Airport.

While at most airports, aircraft park at the gate facing the building, there are some airports that park aircraft backwards, e.g., Dortmund Airport (shown above), and London City Airport. After arrival and engine shutdown, aircraft are then pushed back into their parking position.

What is the benefit of parking aircraft backwards?


2 Answers 2


The airports that feature this parking orientation are of small size, with the apron (or part of it) very close to the runway.

Taking Dortmund Airport as an example:

When an aircraft of a certain size (for example Airbus A319, Boeing 737) reaches one of the parking positions 5-12, it is pushed backwards into its parking position. The engines are switched off. Jets of this size, which are parked forward on their own, would cross the obstacle surfaces, in this case the lateral transition surface, with their stabilizer. This, in turn, would result in an increase in obstacle clearance OCA / H (obstacle clearance altitude / height).

Source: de.wikipedia

In other words, the tall tail fins of certain aircraft when parked nose in would violate the runway's lateral transition surface: an imaginary box around the runway that is meant to be clear of high obstructions, to ensure the safe operation of the runway and any navigational equipment.

For Dortmund Airport, I suspect the aircraft are also "pulled-out" before their engine-start due to the lack of jet blast deflectors (the building, personnel, and vehicles, would be unprotected). For example, the blast from the breakaway (taxi) power of an A320 with CFM56 engines is 20 m/s (72 km/h wind) up to ~60 m behind the plane.

It is also why London City has "caution your blast" holding point signs, so aircraft taxiing onto the runway wouldn't use too much thrust with the apron and its personnel and vehicles close behind.

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London City Airport showing tails farthest from the close runway, and highlighted in blue is a jet blast deflector behind one of the parking stands. In this airport the pilots steer into this position without the help of a pushback tug.

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Example of how the runway area in Dortmund Airport may affect one apron and not the other (yellow circle).

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ How strong is the jetblast during "power-forward"? It's obviously less than a takeoff or static run-up. Is it actually dangerous for a building? Some aircraft can and do perform "power-back", i.e. backing out using thrust reversers on their own power. $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2017 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag: When powering back using thrust reversers, the exhaust gasses aren't deflected straight forwards, but rather at a large angle away from straight forward; possibly this highly spread-out cone of thrust is less potentially damaging than the full-force concentrated exhaust blast that the building would receive from the engines of a powering-forward aircraft? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Aug 25, 2018 at 21:48

This is the first time I've seen aircraft being pushed back into their parking position. Though I am no expert, my experience as an airport operations supervisor (in a past life) would lead me to believe that the most significant advantage is that an aircraft could then depart the parking location more quickly under its own power (versus waiting for the pushback).

The most labor intensive portion of turning an aircraft (from a ramp crew perspective) is the dumping and loading of the cargo pits. This typically occurs as soon as the aircraft arrives to the gate. Thus, there is some potential for operations efficiency by performing the pushback on the front end, since the ramp crew is already there. Once all ground actions are complete, the majority of the ramp crew could then leave for another flight (perhaps leaving one behind to disconnect ground power, pre-conditioned air, and to guide the aircraft out of the apron).

The aircraft illustrated either use built-in aircraft stairs or air stairs; this arrangement would not be possible using a conventional passenger loading bridge, as they are typically designed for aircraft parked nose-in.


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