Taking a flight and undergoing all procedures travelers never think about what a complicated organism the airport is and how much work its uninterrupted operation requires. ForUm's correspondents have managed to observe the inside life of the international airport Boryspil and live one day with it.
"Boryspil" is the biggest airport in Ukraine. According to the official data, it maintains about 65% of passenger air transportation of the country and services eight million passengers annually. Moreover, it services freight and passenger transportation of about 50 national and foreign airline companies on more than 100 regular routes.
The new modern passenger terminal D servicing all principle international flights was opened in June of 2012. And that is the place we go to learn local secrets.
Press secretary of the Independent Identity Check Point "Kyiv" Mariana Markovych is the first person we meet in the departure zone. While our passes are undergoing registration we speak about peculiarities of frontier guards' service.
There are 300 frontier guards working in "Boryspil" and they are the first to meet passengers in the airport. "Passenger's first impression about the country depends to a large extend on frontier guards and their behaviour. Thus, we constantly refine ourselves. To have a high level of communication skills we study history, geography, culture and psychology," Mariana says.
According to her, citizens of Ukraine forge documents quite often, mostly for employment in Europe. The most popular forgery is replacement of the photo and several pages in passport. The frontier guards also often have to deal with illegal migrants.
"There was a situation recently, when 11 citizens of China arrived in Ukraine and provided job invitations from official state organizations. The guards were suspicious and contacted these organizations to learn the details but found out that none of them had sent any. Citizens of China later admitted that they had come to Ukraine for employment," Mariana tells.
To unmask frauds the frontier guards have their professional secrets. For example, if a person, who arrives for employment but states he is a tourist, finds it difficult to answer questions about the city and places he plans to visit. Migrants workers often get caught because of the clothes they wear - brand new shirts and trousers, often bought specially for the trip, sometimes with price labels still attached.
It happens very often that the guards have to deny entry to children, mostly due to improperly registered or expired documents.
Mariana also told us that the airport now uses the system of preliminary processing of information, which simplifies the border crossing procedure. 30 minutes before the departure of a foreign flight for Boryspil, the frontier guards receive information about passengers and have time to control it. Thus, when passengers arrive, guards have only identify the guests, which takes 30 seconds per person.
Moreover, citizens of Ukraine who fly frequently can obtain a special e-card and use a separate corridor, meaning to pass control out of turn.
Having received our passes, we undergo document and luggage control by the aviation security service and go to the passport control point.
Passengers are no numerous for the moment and Serhiy Suvorkov agrees to answer our question.
He has been working in the airport for three years. We have learned from him that not only Ukrainians are active frontier violators. There are many foreigners who stay in Ukraine longer than allowed and then try to cross the border with expired or someone else's documents.
According to Serhiy, in case of any suspicions the inspector on duty must remain calm and call the shift chief. According to Ukrainian legislation, frontier guards have one hour to study a passport, thus they have the right to detain you for this period of time. The passenger of interest is told that the document requires thorough examination and that it is a regular procedure.
"Of course, we have the data base, but it is not needed often, as our highly skilled professionals can understand at sight if the document is forged. We also have special instruments, like this device "Diksi", which examines documents with ultraviolet lamp. If more thorough examination is required we use video spectral comparator VSC-5000."
To learn how to deal with passengers properly, all frontier guards take psychological course and various role-playing games. "Every day at work is special for me. And I've noticed that all workers of the frontier service are addicted to their work. We cannot even stay on vacation for long. There is always something new and interesting happens here. Personally, I like pilgrimage of Hasids. They are extraordinary people, and many funny situations happen when they come. For example, one of then can start singing or play drums and in several minutes you see a hundred people dancing in a round right in the hall of the airport."
Our next stop is the central headquarters of the State Border Service "Boryspil-1", where there is no entry for mere mortals.
In the training room.
Apart from trainings and role-playing games, the frontier guards are taught what flights to pay special attention to. "There are countries, where we can expect potential illegal migrants from. We teach our inspectors what countries and what categories of people to control thoroughly.
According to Serhiy, the frontier guards include people of all ages. "We highly appreciate older officers, who have vast experience. We have an officer who was meeting "Olympics-80" as a passport control inspector. At the same time, there are many young officers aged 20 and older. The work is so interesting that nobody leaves voluntarily. Moreover, retired officers often ask to take them back."
In the dining room.
This is the video spectral comparator VSC-5000, which enables to detect forged documents. we check the passport of our photographer. Everything seems to be ok.
Now we are going to meet dog handlers.
Oleksandr Zhuk has been working as a dog handler for 13 years. He tells that the frontier service of the airport has eight dogs: spaniels, German shepherds and one fox terrier. For the work in the airport, the guards usually take spaniels and the fox terrier not to scare passengers.
"It is important for a dog to be very patient and kind, so it does not bite even when someone steps on its paw," Oleksandr tells.
As a rule, a dog serves for eight years, after which undergoes examination, and if healthy enough can stay or another couple of years.
Cesar searches for drugs and explosives. If he finds something suspicious he sits or lies on the ground, as he s forbidden to bark. Moreover, due to small size Cesar can reach places unreachable for a shepherd.
Before saying goodbye Mariana tells us a touching case from her practice. A man from US called the frontier guards of "Boryspil" and asked to assist with marriage proposal. They agreed an the girl received the proposal right in the airport, accompanied by two officers. This work probably makes people hopeless romantics.
Now it is the time to talk directly to the employers of the airport. We meet the hall guard Oksana Vydolob, who has been working her for 19 years. This woman knows answers to all questions of passengers - what to do, where to do.
"My job is to secure that a passengers gets onboard in time and in good mood. Passengers are so different, and the important thing is to keep them calm," Oksana tells.
According to her, there are 10 officers working in a shift. If a passenger gets lost, officers on duty make an announcement and report to an airline company representative that the passenger is coming. In the majority of cases, passengers are found.
Oksana also recalled being on duty during the final match of EuropEuro-2012 and told us a secret: she has not become a stewardess because she is afraid to fly.
Passengers have arrived.
Press secretary of the airport Oksana Ozhygova takes us to the planeside, where we can observe the process of technical maintenance.
A plane is being loaded with drinking water, food and luggage.
Other planes are waiting for their turn.
Steward and stewardess are arriving...
... and the plane is taking off.
And this man pulls planes. In professional language he is a driver of towing tractor. Planes cannot drive in reverse gear, thus need to be pulled by the nose leg. The most dangerous thing that can happen is to evert the nose leg. A plane costs crazy money, and the driver tries not even to think about it.
We also met Volodymyr Uriloviy, head of the airfield maintenance and supply service. Once in three hours and under any weather conditions the staff of the service inspects the landing line, which must be always clean and ready for take-off and landing.
"We have a special code of eight digits to define the state of the landing line, which we send to crew teams of all airports we cooperate with. After inspection we decide what to do. Sometimes it is enough to clean with chemical agents, other times we have to use heavy equipment. The most difficult period is winter, of course, especially when precipitations beats equipment efficiency. Our work is extreme, but we accept the risk, because this work is very important for properly functioning of the airport."
We learn that a plane will land in several minutes, so we go back to the terminal, where customs officers are already waiting for us.
Luggage check point was installed not so long ago in the terminal D. Luggage is controlled selectively.
This man was asked to show currency he was carrying.
Customs officer Galina tells us that our passengers often react inadequately to officers' requests.
"Many people shout aggressively "what do you want?", others just show discontent in milder expressions. Foreigners, for example, never behave like this. When a passenger answers the questions he may proceed. We try to be always polite and smiling."
Inspector Yulia tells us that every shift starts with a briefing, during which they learn about changes in legal acts on customs procedure. Every inspector always has a briefcase with documents and stamps to explain Ukrainian legislation to people.
According to Yulia, customs officers get suspicious when a passengers carries too much luggage or when behaves nervously and impatiently. "There are funny situations happening as well. For example, a passenger was carrying 14 small monkeys. And I once filed a protocol about 746 vials of testosterone, being transported by a citizen of Ukraine to Azerbaijan for sportsmen," Yulia tells.
The customs officers also have various devices and substances to analyze precious metals and make drug tests, but they refused to show them to us. And an officer of the narcotics simply ran away.
However, we managed to see the x-ray device for luggage and even scanned my purse. The officer took my flashcard for a knife, but situation resolved itself after visual control.
Chief inspector of the Kyiv regional customs Olena Deineko shows us the protocols and shares secrets of work.
"We already know what flights carry troubles. From Dubai, for example, we expect smuggling of furs, and from Turkey - leather and fabrics. In these latter days we file many protocols on entry-exit of currency. People also carry pens, flashcards and keyholders with installed video cameras, jammers and wiretaps, which provides for criminal responsibility."
According to her, violations are some numerous because our citizens do not know customs rules and prohibited articles list.
According to the chief inspector passengers can carry:
- goods costing 1000 euro maximum;
- 10 thousand euro in case maximum;
- personal belongings (clothes, underwear, shoes, jewelries, cosmetics, stationery);
- photo- and video camera, binocular, tape-recorder, player, radio, TV, wheelchair, sports equipment in a single copy only;
- mobile phones, pagers, portable musical instruments, laptops, e-books, watches (two each);
- three flashcards maximum;
- 0.5 l of eau de toilette and 100 g of perfume;
- 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco or all tobacco items in set, weighing 250 g maximum;
- foodstaff costing 200 euro maximum;
- strong alcoholic drinks - 1 l, wine - 2 l, beer - 5 l;
We also want to see the storage of confiscated goods, but are denied access as separate permission is required. Thus, we are leaving terminal D to meet Marina Bolitsok, chief inspector on access to public information and citizens' appeals.
Marina takes us to the dog unit where we meet four-legged officers. There are 16 dogs working for the customs, including Belgian Shepherds, American spaniels, a Russian spaniel and a black Labrador.
Dog handler Vanya tells us about the training process. "First we teach a dog to find a ball in plain sight, then a half hidden ball and finally completely hidden ball for the dog to use not only eyes but also the nose. When the dog can find the ball in any position we put drug substitute next to it, so they dog search for the toy with a smell of a drug. Then we start cutting the toy in small and smaller pieces for the dog to pay more attention to the smell. Finally we remove the toy and continue training with the smell only."
Head of the department Yevhen Skripnichenko told us that dog handlers and dogs undergo training in Khmelnitski dog training center, because dogs do not have enough equipped space in Boryspil.
Dog handler of the customs Viktoria Samplina used to work as a customs inspector but asked for the transfer. She jokes that dogs are nicer people.
"Every dog handler has two assigned dogs. Mine are Paco and Silki. Before every shift they undergo obligatory trainings. Dog's enthusiast lasts only several hours, thus it needs continuous encouragement. Dog are like children - played, found nothing, got disappointed and left."
The principle place of work of dog handlers is luggage department. In case of any reaction of the dog officers register the flight and name of the passenger and label the bag. When the passenger collects luggage he will be asked to open it.
"We had many cases of drug smuggling. Last year our dog discovered heroin hidden in the false bottom of a suitcase. However, smugglers more often transport drugs inside themselves, thus the work of dogs become irrelevant," Viktoria says.
One of the dogs is trained to find explosives and works regularly in the mail transportation department. It turns out Ukrainian soldiers still send regularly certain parts of soviet armament to America.
Our day in the airport "Boryspil" has been very intense. We have seen not only the team work of all services, but also sincere devotion of many officers. Unfortunately we did not have time to see the aviation security service at work, but we hope to compensate it in future materials. We wish all workers and services of the airport mutual understanding and polite passengers.
Anastasia Pika, photos by Maxim Trebukhov