Ramp Safety will be one of the topicsdiscussed at the Flight Safety Foundation's
48th International Air Safety Seminar, in Seattle, Washington, in November.
The subject is an important one. The annual cost of equipment damage during
ramp operations has been estimated as the dollar equivalent of a fleet
of widebody jets. The true cost of injury to personnel is incalculable.
Because of the hazard that
jet blast poses to ramp ground personnel and equipment, many air carriers
prohibit or se verely restrict single-engine taxi, instead requiring use
of a tug to position the aircraft. An ASRS report provides graphic illustration
of the jet blast damage that can occur on a tight ramp:
- As I was
approaching gate I shut down the #2 engine (per our Ops Manual). I was
momentarily distracted inside the cockpit. There was enough room to
make a turn...to gate. I added power on the #1 engine. During the left
turn, the jet blast from the #1 engine blew a mechanic off a maintenance
stand. It also blew part of an engine cowling off the stand. In future
situations, I will...shut down and use a tug to reposition if there
is any doubt about jet blast.
Is This the Party to
Whom I Am Speaking?
Lack of adequate communication--verbal
or visual--among flight crew and ground crew, is at the heart of many
ramp incidents reported to ASRS. Good communication is especially important
during night ramp operations, as shown by the following eye-opening (and
- I had just
confirmed with the headset operator [the tug driver] that all doors
were closed and we were cleared to push back. About twenty feet back,
we encountered a firm object. The lav truck driver [had returned] to
the aircraft to empty "the blue room," and had ignored the
beacon lights or not realized that aircraft movement was imminent. Just
prior to impact, the driver bailed out of the truck. The wingwalkers
on both wings failed to notice this vehicle behind us.
The aircraft had to be jacked up to facilitate removal of the truck.
The aircraft sustained extensive damage, a 7-foot gash in the belly,
and was down for four days.
Good cockpit communication
is equally important. The next report, from a Commuter First Officer,
illustrates how easily CRM skills can be lost, even during routine tasks
like a departure checklist:
- I began
my duties of computing weight and balance and bug speeds. I saw the
Captain advance the condition levers... [and] I sensed the aircraft
began to roll forward. We both fully depressed the toe brakes. However,
there is no hydraulic power at low RPM settings. The aircraft rolled
forward enough to strike a ground power unit, tearing a hole on the
right side, below the First Officer's window. The parking brake had
not been set, [even though it] was called out by me and the Captain
confirmed it was set.
The Road Home
In another ASRS report, an
Air Carrier Captain was confronted with several roadblocks to his attempts
to park his air craft for the night:
- [We were]
cleared to the gate and advised to power in to the gate. Guide-in man
had no lights or wands, but was standing in bright lights from the terminal.
He brought us 12 feet too far forward of the stop line, and the left
engine cowl hit the jetway. When the jetway driver tried to move the
jetway, he pushed the aircraft, causing more damage. The stop lines
were marked, but were hard to read because they had oil and grease on
them. The jetway was not parked in the normal spot and was unlit.
The reporter makes several
suggestions for these problems: taxi and parking lines should be clean
and visible; jetways should be manned by qualified personnel and parked
in proper position; and supervisors should be at any gate where aircraft
are being moved. Equipping guide-in personnel with lights or wands is
another safety recommendation.
Perhaps the most frightening
sort of incident is the sudden disappearance of a passenger on the ramp.
A number of factors led to this GA pilot's nerve-wracking experience while
taxiing a tail-dragger aircraft:
- While I
was taxiing for takeoff, a [charter airplane] in front of me stopped
on the taxiway. The pilot was not using the radio, so I decided to taxi
around the plane in the ramp area to his right. A passenger deplaned
and began walking toward the ramp--this put his path in front of mine.
I stopped and looked to see if any additional passengers were deplaning.
I then looked back...and assumed the passenger was with [a group of
people off to the side]. Again I started around the plane. I leaned
forward ...and stopped immediately when I saw the passenger crouching
on the ground in front of me. He had apparently tripped on a tie-down
cable and was picking up papers he had dropped.
A gremlin is an imaginary gnome-like
creature to whom mechanical problems in military aircraft were frequently
attributed during World War II; hence, any mischief-maker. The ASRS reporters
quoted this month may not consider these aeronautical gremlins imaginary.
First up, a GA pilot's "chilling" experience:
on the ground was 35°F. Takeoff normal and first power reduction
went smoothly. At second power reduction, throttle would not move in
ANY direction. Tower was notified and we returned for landing. At 400
feet, throttle unfroze. Normal landing accomplished.
The previous day, the engine compartment had been cleaned with a biodegradable
cleaner, which had a water base. Evidently water entered the cable housing
and froze at altitude. After the throttle cable was cleaned and re-lubricated,
it functioned normally.
This problem could occur anytime
an aircraft climbs into cold temperatures, even when the surface weather
is balmy. The solution: alcohol- or glycol-based cleaners, or solvents,
used sparingly and disposed of properly.
A general aviation pilot flying
in IMC experienced repeated errors with his Directional Gyro while trying
to maintain headings given by ATC. Other vacuum instruments continued
to perform normally. He managed to climb to VFR by his magnetic compass,
and the rest of the flight was uneventful. Back on the ground...
- Upon arrival...I
explained the problem to an A & P [mechanic], and after some trouble-shooting,
he removed the instrument panel cover and found a large wad of mud adhering
to the racks of some of the instruments, the Directional Gyro included.
He said that this was sufficient to affect the input side of the DG
and cause the malfunction.
The mud was put there by a wasp-like insect called a "mud-dauber."
The week prior to this flight I had left the side vent window open.
It was during this time the mud nests were built. When I returned [home],
I went around the hangar and located a number of these nests. I have
since disposed of these, as well as all the insects I could find.
For pilots who must leave their
aircraft outside a hangar, we suggest the following for avoiding visits
from six-legged gremlins: install screen material over any open vents
and windows; and, if possible, periodically remove the instrument panel
cover to check for insect nests, as well as cocoons, spider webs, and
general dust and debris.
Although it's nice to know
that passengers are listening to the emergency procedures briefings, flight
crews must ensure that passengers do not react inappropriately to a perceived
emergency. In the following report, better communication could have nipped
the passengers' misperceptions in the bud:
- While parked
on the ramp after a lengthy delay, exhaust smoke from the aircart being
used to run our air conditioning was ingested into the airplane. The
flight attendant called to say that passengers had smelled the exhaust
and yelled "fire." A passenger next to the overwing exit immediately
opened the exit. I used the PA [system] to reassure the passengers and
request that they not deplane. Since we now brief passengers in the
exit rows to be ready to open the exits, we must be quick to explain
any activity which might not be understood [by those passengers].
A Real Load
Finally, a commuter airline
First Officer shares his "ribbiting" story of some unusual stowaways.
- While flying...
I felt something land on my right foot. Reaching down with my right
hand, I was surprised to feel something cold and damp, which moved.
I looked down and saw a large bullfrog hop off my foot and behind the
rudder pedals, where it sat looking at me. We landed without incident,
and could no longer see the frog. As the passengers deplaned, one told
me we had a stowaway frog in the cabin. Later, we found 8 large bullfrogs
hiding under the seats. We never found out where they came from.
Kudos to our reporter for avoiding
a panic reaction--a frog in the cockpit can look (and feel) like a snake.
In our article last month,
"The Magic Words," we goofed by saying that the words "cleared
for..." apply to taxi instructions. The FAA Air Traffic Control Handbook
instructs controllers not to use the word "cleared" in conjunction
with taxi authorization. The instructions "taxi" or "proceed"
are the appropriate magic words for taxiing aircraft. Thanks to the readers
who brought this error to our attention.
ASRS Recently Issued Alerts
- Reports of malfunctioning
pilot seat locks on B737s
- Tree obstructions on approach
to an Illinois airport
- Frequency interference between
two Arizona ATIS's
- Similar-sounding intersection
names on a Texas STAR
- Inadequate back-up power
systems at several TRACONs
August 1995 Report Intake
- Air Carrier Pilots--1914
- General Aviation Pilots--833