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Aviation Ramp Safety; How Much Damage Dung R. Pam
Aviation Ramp Safety; How Much
Dung R. Pam

Executive Summary

Ladies and gentlemen of the board, despite the global recession and the fall in passenger traffic, we still had an opportunity to remain profitable in the last financial year. Our financial results show a loss of $3.5m, which by the way is much better than most airlines. However, the fact is we lost a total of $9m to ramp related accidents and incidents alone. We failed to invest $150,000 in the measures that will have prevented these ramp events. Safety indeed, has significant impact on our revenue streams.

This Presentation will attempt to highlight the importance of ramp safety with a view to foster better understanding of its impact on our business. As well as show ways in which senior management can play an effective role in improving its current levels.

1. What is ramp safety and how does it affect our business?

Ramp safety concerns all the, processes, procedures, personnel and activities necessary to prepare an aircraft for flight. This includes parking, baggage handling, refuelling, cleaning, boarding of passengers, maintenance, catering, de-icing, e.t.c. Flight operations and ramp operations are intricately woven so that one does not exist without the other. Most commercial flights expect to begin and end safely at gate; hence the phrase chock to chock.

A survey by chemical giant DuPont showed that the injury rate of employees of scheduled airlines was 3.5 times that of miners. The mining industry averaged 3.9 injuires/100 employees, while airlines averaged 13.6. Most of these accidents occur on the airside ramp.

2. Initial reaction from the industry.



During a seminar in November 1994, Harry Hopkins the former chairman of the United Kingdom Flight Safety Committee estimated that worldwide, the

dollar equivalent of fifteen Boeing 747-400s is lost each year to equipment damage during ramp operations.

Industry efforts led by IATA in the mid 1990’s did not result in any discernable improvement in ramp safety.

In 2003, both Flight safety foundation and Airports council international joined the initiative with renewed enthusiasm.

In 2005, FSF estimated that Airlines lose US$4b annually as a result of ramp events. However, after analysing data from the ground accident prevention programme (GAPP), ramp safety audit programme and a safety trend analysis involving 50 IATA member airlines in 2005, the cost of ramp events is now estimated to be in the region of US$11.8b. This is broken down into commercial aircraft repairs US$4b, corporate aircraft repairs US$1b and litigation charges as a result of injuries, deaths, e.t.c. US$5.8. Most of these were unfortunately uninsurable.

Ramp damage occurs once in every 1000 departures and personnel injury in 1 in every 100 departures. The average downtime is 3.5 days per aircraft at the cost of $225,000. For airlines with a fleet of up to 102 aircraft, that is the equivalent of having one aircraft in the hanger all year round. This is rather disturbing. To drive home the point, Heathrow expects 2 aircraft damage and 15 persons injured daily.

expects 2 aircraft damage and 15 persons injured daily. Figure 1. Common areas of aircraft damage

Figure 1. Common areas of aircraft damage and cost Courtesy Virgin Atlantic flysafe magazine.


Data gathering and Investigation.

According to industry findings, a distribution of these events show areas where they are most likely to occur as; 43% at the gate stop area, 39% at the gate entry and exit area and 18% outside the ramp entry area.

entry and exit area and 18% outside the ramp entry area. Figure 2:Distribution of ramp accidents

Figure 2:Distribution of ramp accidents Courtesy flight international magazine.

2.2.1. 43% of ramp events occur at the gate stop area.

This area is defined within 20 ft of the final aircraft parking position. At this point the flight crew are relying on safety directions from the ground crew (marshaller, tug driver, chock handler and wingwalkers) to ensure safe manoeuvring of the aircraft to its designated gate/stand. The marshaller may need to rely on a number of “wing walkers” to ensure the extremities of the aircraft remain clear of any obstacles. For large transport aircraft operating into congested aprons, up to 3 wing walkers may be required. Evidence suggests that fewer accidents occur when adequate numbers of wingwalkers are present.

Courtesy NASA air safety reporting system. Figure 4. Typical damage to a wing tip like

Courtesy NASA air safety reporting system.

Courtesy NASA air safety reporting system. Figure 4. Typical damage to a wing tip like this

Figure 4. Typical damage to a wing tip like this will cost in excess of $250,000 in repairs.

Figure 5. Aircraft and tug equipment accident with high risk of multiple personnel injuries capable

Figure 5. Aircraft and tug equipment accident with high risk of multiple personnel injuries

capable of costing over $4,000,000

personnel injuries capable of costing over $4,000,000 Figure 6. Ramp equipment damage with risk of multiple

Figure 6. Ramp equipment damage with risk of multiple personnel injuries capable of costing over $2,000,000

Fi gure 7. loading accident capable of damage to equipment and payload with risk of

Figure 7. loading accident capable of damage to equipment and payload with risk of personnel injuries.

2.2.2. 39% at gate entry and exit areas.

This is normally where a transition from active tower control is made to liaison with ground handling team. Hazards here include other aircraft, vehicular traffic, noise, jet blast, ground equipment, personnel, restricted visibility, e.t.c. This phase is also characterised by the need for increased situational awareness by the flight crew as they need to monitor both internal and external events; ATC, company frequency, engine parameter, checklist execution, and initial signals from ground crew the workload can escalate and easily lead to distractions from maintaining accurate trajectory.

2.2.3. 18% outside the gate area.

This area is prone to aircraft-to-aircraft or aircraft-to-vehicular contact due the converging nature of the taxiways.

2.3. Data analysis and Findings.

The most common parts of the aircraft prone to these events are the aft cargo door, engines, wings, forward, rear fuselage and forward cargo door.

The operations identified as responsible for the most damage are baggage loading, catering and waste clearing.

A plethora of reasons were identified centered on human factors. Other causes include:

Rule breaking or failure to follow stipulated procedures. Usually cutting corners under the guise of commercial pressure to meet on time performance OTP. The phrase commonly heard in the aftermath of an event is “I was trying to help” save time and effort (see figure 10 below).

Equipment design errors.

Inadequate regulations or level of oversight.

Poor Training and remuneration for most ground staff.

Wrong or inadequate Procedures.

Improper Ramp guidance.

Poor or no communication from ATC, company or ground crew.

Improper positioning of ground equipment.

Inadequate number of personnel during ramp movement.

Distraction due to high workload.

Congestion on the ramp area.

due to high workload. • Congestion on the ramp area. Figure10. A perfect scenario for injury

Figure10. A perfect scenario for injury a “helpful” ground staff saving time by not waiting to use the safety steps.

Figure 11.Inadvertent slide deployment by catering staff trying to open an aircraft door. 3. Industry

Figure 11.Inadvertent slide deployment by catering staff trying to open an aircraft door.

3. Industry outlook

Over the past 15 years the industry has shown steady concern about the impact of ramp safety on industry profitability. Data gathered over a period of time was analysed in 2002 and showed no considerable improvement in ramp safety levels.

3.1. Airport capacity vs traffic forecast.

According to a report published in January 2009, Eurocontrol assessed 138 airports and concluded that even if the planned 2007-2030 41% increase in

airport capacity is achieved, total capacity will still lag anticipated traffic demand by 25%. This is both landside and airside.

3.2. Ground handling liberalisation.

Another factor that has contributed to ramp congestion is the deregulation liberalisation of “ground handling services” which prior to 1978 almost was entirely monopolised by the airport operators or the national carriers. For Europe that came in the form of the EU ground handling directive of 1996. The competing ground service providers that emerged had to set up duplicate resources within the airport vicinity in order to provide similar service levels.

3.3. Increase in airplane numbers.

According to Boeing, the current in-service commercial aircrafts numbering 19,500 will be joined by an additional 16,900 aircrafts; boosting total in- service commercial aircrafts to a staggering 35,800 aeroplanes by 2027.

4. Recommendations.

4.1. Management leadership in safety training.

This is the ideal starting point for any strategic change that has far reaching financial implications. Safety, like financial success has to be top-driven to make the desired impact. Having established the safety has a direct bearing on financial performance of organisations, we are confident that our senior management will to lead by example towards safer ramp operations. The first step is getting in education and training in an atmosphere where “safety, is the culture”. In this regard, IATA has already developed a comprehensive training package with special emphasis on accessibility for its members. The current courses which are relevant to our type of operation include:

Airside Safety

• Use of Ground Support Equipment

• Airport Ground Handling Matters

• Ground Support Equipment Training

• Future Developments and New Ground Support Equipment Products & Services.

4.1.1. Safety Culture

A safety culture is the foundation on which corporate integrity is built. It should be manifested in all corporate activities and not just restricted to ramp or flight operations. Some of its characteristics drivers are: Informed Culture: Education and training

Adequate initial and recurrent ramp safety training is provided and supported by a high level of mutual trust between employer and the workforce. Managers should have a pulse on the current state of safety and the workforce should be willing to report their own errors and near misses. The logic is that an informed and reporting culture will provide the basis for a learning culture. Vigilant Culture: No short cuts in operational processes.

Compliance with all ramp safety procedures. Whether a hazard is present or not, the required safety gear and equipment must be used first time and all the time. When the concept of “requisite imagination” is present, there is a high level of vigilance. Risks should be appropriately managed and history of past successes and an accident-free record should not result in complacency. Just Culture: No fear of unfair treatment leading to

concealing of incidents

Both management and employees need to clearly define the line between the acceptable errors and wilful violations in a fair and consistent manner. Flexible and resilient Culture

This is where change management is institutionalised as a norm. The organisation should have ability to quickly adapt to volatile operating environment while providing competent, multi-skilled service. This is the unique ability to meet multiple opposing goals, driven by the adaptive capacity of the human element to accommodate changes and absorb disturbances without catastrophic failure. It is an increasingly popular radical concept that postulates that the all systems are intrinsically flawed and only

people can create the needed safety through practice in all aspects of an

organisation.9&10 Learning Culture

This is an environment where the quest for continuous improvements as a means of achieving and maintaining competitive advantage is understood and practiced.

4.2. Management participation in industry initiatives

Active participation and support for industry initiatives like IATA’s ground handling council (IGHC) and the Flight safety foundation led ground accident prevention programme (GAPPII) will increase awareness as well as enhance corporate responsibility. This will motivate employee participation in local airports safety activities.

4.3. Management should appreciate that they are still retain responsibility for the safety and quality of most outsourced and subcontracted services like fuelling, de-icing, e.t.c.

4.4. Appropriate regulatory stipulation on the standards of training,

qualification and oversight required for all ground handling operations

and personnel.

5. Conclusion

Though we can quantify the cost of repairs for aircraft and equipment damage, it is difficult to put a price on the damage to reputation and lose of business that ensues if customers perceive an organisation to be negligent. In order to operate with greater efficiency, an organisation strives to achieve to obtain greater output for the same input. This can be achieved in various ways. However, it is best achieved by reducing operating loses rather than reducing investment in structures and processes that ensure sustained competitive advantage. This will not only keep the organisation at the cutting edge of safety, but will make both our internal (employees and shareholders)

and external customers proud to be associated with us. Safety is no accident; it is usually premeditated and scrupulously implemented.



Flight international magazine, 19 th July 2005, page 36-38.


(UKFSC), at the committee's annual seminar held in November, 1994. The focus of the 1994 seminar was "Ramp Accidents: The Problem, the key and the cure


Flight international magazine, 15 th Nov 2005, page 10. and 21 st Mar 2006, page 10


Tim Whitaker (2009) Airports and ground handling, City University London.



6. .html.


Virgin Atlantic flysafe safety publication 2009.


Pam, D.R. (2008) city university safety management tools and methods


Westrum, R (1991) Cultures with requisite imagination.

10.S. Dekker (2002), The Field Guide to Human Error Investigations. 11.Hofstede, G. (2004) Culture and organisations: software of the mind. 12.Graham, A.(2008) Managing airports, an international perspective.