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Ground Operations involves all aspects of aircraft handling at airports as well as aircraft movement around the aerodrome, except on active runways. The safety challenges of ground operations arise, in part, directly from those operations; for example, ensuring that aircraft are not involved in collisions and that the jet efflux from large aircraft does not endanger small ones. Even more important, ground operations involve the preparation of aircraft for departure and must be done in such a way that the subsequent flight will be safe; for example, correct loading of cargo and baggage, sufficient and verified fuel of adequate quantity and quality and the correct use of Aircraft Ground De/Anti-Icing facilities, where appropriate. Runway Incursion may arise during or as a result of ground operations, but are covered by a separate category.
Examples of safety challenges involving ground operations directly include:
- ensuring that aircraft are not involved in collisions with other aicraft when moving and that the jet efflux from large aircraft does not hazard small ones;
- ensuring that aircraft are not damaged by debris left on the aircraft manoeuvring areas;
- ensuring safe parking and docking of aircraft;
- minimising the risk of impact damage to parked aircraft and ensuring that any such impact, even if apparently minor, is reported and subject to maintenance inspection as appropriate prior to any further flight operation;
- maintaining adequate surface friction on manoeuvring areas;
- provision of adequate signage, markings and lighting so that aircraft are able to follow their taxi clearances properly;
- providing ATM capability which matches the complexity of ground operational movements.
Examples of safety challenges arising from ground operations concerned with the preparation of aircraft for departure include:
- correct loading of the aircaft, and especially of its cargo and baggage, including any Dangerous Goods;
- correct communication of aircraft loading information to the aircaft commander;
- sufficient and verified fuel of adequate quantity and quality; and,
- the correct use of ground de/anti-icing facilities where appropriate.
Much of the activity required in connection with aircraft handling or ground service provision may be dealt with by a collection of contractors and sub contractors rather than people employed directly by the Aircraft Operator; this activity can have a direct bearing on the safety of flight. Such arrangements require that effective Quality Assurance systems are used by both the Aircraft Operator and the various service providers. Many of the issues associated with human factors for highly trained professionals also apply to the various unlicensed operatives who both carry out and operationally supervise the various aircraft ground handling tasks when the aircraft is on or in the vicinity of its parking stand or gate.
Safety Improvement Initiatives
- IATA has recently begun to promote their ‘IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations’ ISAGO which aims to extend the IOSA concept to aircraft ground service provision in the belief that it will help raise overall safety standards amongst the large numbers of service providers involved.
- The Flight Safety Foundation launched its Ground Accident Prevention Program programme (GAP) in 2003 to develop information and products in a practical format — “e-tools” — designed to eliminate accidents and incidents on airport ramps (aprons) and adjacent taxiways, and during the movement of aircraft into and out of hangars.
- ACI Airside Safety Handbook, 4th edition, 2010
- Aircraft Ground Handling and Human Factors - A Comparative Study of the Perceptions by Ramp Staff and Management, NLR, 2010
- AC 150/5210-20A: Ground Vehicle Operations to include Taxiing or Towing an Aircraft on Airports, FAA, September 2015
- ISAGO Standards Manual, 7th Edition, by International Air Transport Association (IATA), IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operators (ISAGO), February 2018.
- Aerodrome Manual, ICAO COSCAP-South Asia
- Network Manager Safety Study - Aerodrome 'Hot Spot' Survey, EUROCONTROL, March 2016