Ensuring safety during ground handling operations

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Ground handling covers the complex series of processes required to separate an aircraft from its load including passengers, baggage, cargo etc. on arrival and attach it with its load before departure.

Maintaining a strong safety culture for ground operations is essential to safeguard passengers, personnel and also the aircraft & equipment. Though keeping ground operations safe is entirely the responsibility of the personnel, all of us need to be aware of the basic safety measures followed at the airside. Here, we shall go through some of them.

A good safety culture combines elements such as good communication, organizational learning, commitment to safety, and a positive working environment.

Special attention is needed in the following aspects:

How airside safety is ensured?

  • Displaying emergency stops clearly; such as Emergency fuel stop, Emergency aircraft stop, and Emergency boarding bridge stop.
  • Keep all kinds of distractions away during critical turnaround activities
  • Never use any portable electronic device within the fuel safety areas
  • Follow safe airside parking and driving rules
  • Coordinated action for critical actions such as application/release of the aircraft brakes, ATC permission to push back, aircraft engine start, tow bar disconnection/raising or lowering of the aircraft if tow bar-less tug is used, and removal of steering pins and gear locks.
  • To protect aircraft against Foreign Object Damage (FOD), and in particular, the risk of ingestion of debris by aircraft engines, personnel ensure that active measures are taken to keep airside areas clear of loose objects and debris.

Near Aircraft

All ground personnel follow specific safety measures to avoid engine inlet hazards when working on or near operating engines. So what exactly causes it? When a jet engine operates, it creates a low-air pressure area in the inlet. This low-pressure area causes a large quantity of air to flow into the engine. The air near the inlet moves at a much higher velocity than air that is farther from the inlet. As a result, the amount of engine suction is significantly high near the inlet.

How safety is ensured?

• Clearly define and illustrate the engine inlet hazard zone
• Use warning signs
• Communicate the dangers of working near operating engines and institute and enforce safe procedures
• Run awareness programs

Apron and ramp safety

Aprons are often the most congested and busiest areas of an airport, where complex activities are carried out under severe space and time constraints. The airport’s ramp area involves a vast number of activities and movements from aircraft, vehicles, equipment and people. It accommodates personnel and contractors from different organizations.

Some of the safety guidelines followed by personnel are as shown below:

• No smoking at the airside
• Respecting speed limits
• Wearing high visibility clothing
• Applying apron warning procedures
• Performing a pre-arrival FOD check
• Looking for any damage to aircraft and report
• Never leaving passengers unattended on aprons
• Performing safety stop when entering the aircraft stand
• No driving under aircraft wings
• Respecting fuel emergency escape routes for fuel trucks
• Reporting any aircraft damage to airside inspection
• The area used for the movement of the air bridge should be kept free of vehicles and/or equipment
• When not in use, the air bridge should be parked with the wheelbase in the designated position before the arrival of aircraft at the stand
• To ensure aircraft pushbacks are done as safely as possible, ground crews are to ensure areas behind the aircraft are clear, and that the aircraft is positioned in such a way as to avoid concentrating break-away blast at buildings, parked or taxiing aircraft or persons on the apron
• Do not commence a pushback if it will conflict with another pushback already in progress or with an aircraft that is ready to taxi
• Vehicle operators should be aware of dangers associated with passing behind an aircraft being pushed back
• For those airports providing apron management services, airport operators should ensure good cooperation and exchange of information between apron management services, ATC and ground service providers.

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