Life on the apron with UPS

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The terrorist threat at the East Midlands air hub has prompted increased security measures with more mooted for the future, but trade bodies are stressing the importance of maintaining the flow of global commerce.

So what does business as usual actually involve for UPS? Johanna Parsons observed the night time operations at the hub.

The UPS East Midlands airport measures 7,967 sq m and is the second largest of its 56 European airport facilities.  It connects the flights from Louisville, Newark, and Philadelphia in the US with the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Every day six Boeing 767 aircraft arrive at facility where they are emptied, sorted and reloaded, connecting road deliveries from around the UK, and air deliveries from Belfast and Edinburgh to the US and EMA network.   

After a strict protocol of checks and procedures, cargo containers are unloaded from the planes, and moved to 12 inbound loading bays. 

Here parcels are manually unloaded and passed through the receiving doors. They are scanned on the way in and separated by a five way primary sorter.  X-ray screening is also used at this stage.

A bespoke conveyor belt system, designed in-house by the plant engineering department, feeds parcels to the relevant sector of the warehouse depending on destination, before they are loaded up into air crates.  

In 2002 UPS built a new building to handle brokerage operations to process customs clearance of international shipments by customers 24 hours per day, 6 days a week.

The hub has a capacity of 12,000 parcels per hour, and approaches 90 per cent of that capacity towards Christmas.  UPS Airlines will fly more than 330 additional flights per day globally during “peak week”, the four days leading up to Christmas day.

The company’s highest volume day for handling air express packages will be Wednesday, 23rd December, when it will deliver more than 6 million air packages across the globe.

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