The awards once again recognise the devotion to duty by handlers from around the globe. Please join with us in appreciating the invaluable work that they perform.
Hand luggage on fire
While assisting a passenger to take his carry-on bags from the jetway on to the aircraft the employee noticed sparks and smoke coming out of a passenger’s cabin bag as they were about to board the aircraft. He immediately told the passenger, who stopped on the jetway as a flame erupted from his bag. The ramp agent then grabbed the bag and removed it from the aircraft and jetway to a safe area and called the Fire Department, who arrived and inspected the bag and found four lithium batteries that were not secured, which had overheated and caused sparks and a small fire to start inside the bag.
An employee working a flight noticed unusual behaviour on the part of the pilot and reported immediately, both internally and through the carrier’s operational structure. This incident ended up making national news as the pilot was allegedly three times over the legal alcohol limit. The employee’s alertness may well have contributed to the avoidance of a serious issue.
Premature start of engine
While unloading an A320 aircraft, the ramp team positioned a beltloader to the forward hold to commence the offload. Then, without warning, the airline mechanics started the No2 engine, which spooled up with the beltloader and loading personnel in close proximity. Another member of the ramp team servicing the potable water heard the engine starting up and immediately ran to the front of the aircraft and waved all ground staff away from the area and proceeded to bang on the fuselage to gain the attention of the mechanics on the flight deck, who then reacted and shut the engine down.
Child’s arm trapped in bus door
During the boarding process, the bus doors opened to disembark the passengers to the aircraft. The ramp agent noticed that a child had trapped his arm in the opposite door. Immediately an ambulance was requested by the ramp agent. In the meantime the ramp agent started to help free the child’s arm by using a screwdriver and hand wash liquid from his parents.
In five minutes, after application of both, the boy was freed and able to board safely.
Wrong aircraft registration
After completing the application to the CLC department and receiving the LS, the ramp agent noticed that the wrong aircraft registration had been inserted, which in turn meant the wrong DOI/DOW data had been entered. It appeared that this was a swapped aircraft and that the handler had not been informed. This was a potentially grave safety issue but one which was fortunately spotted in time.
Early release of the parking break
Upon arriving on stand, the STOP sign was given by the ramp officer. The aircraft came to a complete stop for a few seconds, then started moving towards the ground handling staff and the ramp equipment, before it stopped again after 12 metres. Although the “chocks on position” sign had not been given, the Captain released the parking brake. The ramp slope pushed the aircraft forward toward the terminal, threatening a collision with the passenger steps equipment with its port wing, while also jeopardizing the life of the passengers on board and the staff positioning the wheel chocks. Staff underneath the aircraft started running by the aircraft side and slamming the fuselage with their hands to draw the attention of the captain to the aircraft movement.
Plastic sheeting ingested by aircraft engine
After completing a pushback in terrible weather conditions, the handler observed a large piece of plastic sheeting blow across the tarmac and be ingested by the engine of the aircraft he had just pushed back. Because of the limited visibility caused by the weather, he had to think quickly on how to best alert the flight crew. He swiftly contacted air traffic control who in turn were able to notify the flight crew, thereby averting what could have been a disaster.
Engineering stairs blown from bay
In this episode, the employee noticed a large set of engineering stairs being blown from bay 37 across taxi way Golf. He immediately contacted a safety car and proceeded to retrieve the stairs, which ended up perilously close to a taxi-ing A330-300, and which eventually came to rest on a grass verge between taxiway Golf and runway 07. The member of staff, who was escorted by the safety car, then took a tug with a tow hitch to recover the steps and secure them in safe storage area on behalf of the airport and the carrier.
Quick bay change
Here the Duty Manager noticed that an A320 aircraft was parked in a bay which was a Multiple Aircraft Receiving Stand bay. At the same time, he realised that an A380 aircraft that was about to land was assigned the adjacent bay. The parking of an A380 aircraft next to an aircraft in a MARS bay had no precedent at the station so the employee immediately contacted the Team Leader and alerted him of the potential safety issue, that of insufficient wingtip clearance. As a result, a bay change was instigated, thereby avoiding any potential incident.
During an A320 turnaround, right after positioning the water unit truck under the fuselage and while the Goldair driver was operating the hydraulics of the equipment, he moved backwards to provide water service. Then the driver noticed that the basket of the equipment was starting to rise automatically. He attempted to stop the movement of the basket, but without success. He subsequently attempted to push the emergency button but he couldn’t reach it so ran to the cockpit and managed to switch off the engine, preventing the boom from hitting the fuselage.
Smoking landing gear
A member of the AeroGround handling team staff was undertaking an aircraft pushback. The load master, who was also carrying out the walk-out assistance, noticed after around 300 metres that the outer, left-hand wheel was at an angle to the main landing gear and that smoke was being emitted. On seeing this, the employee interrupted the pushback operation immediately, and called the fire service and engineers. The fire service then had to cool the landing gear.
Engineers established that the brakes had become stuck and that a wheel bearing had already come apart. This meant that the aircraft was no longer classified as being airworthy and was towed to a parking position.
Parking brake not applied
The aircraft was signalled to stop by the operator with the appropriate communication signals. However, the aircraft still overshot the stop mark by approximately 20 metres, even though the message was received and acknowledged by the flight crew.
During the manoeuvre, the agent turned to place the marshalling bats down and proceed to the FEGP unit whilst the other agent turned to pick up the chocks to place at the nosewheel, only to turn and discover that the aircraft was moving past him and towards the head of stand area. He dropped the chocks and shouted to the marshalling agent.
The marshalling agent assessed the situation and ran out into the road to attempt to gain the attention of the flight deck to warn of the aircraft movement but both officers’ heads were down because they were conducting the arrival checks. It took two further frantic waves of the bats to gain their attention and then the crew abruptly applied the foot brake. This could have had serious consequences if the aircraft had not been stopped. It appeared that the Captain forgot to apply the parking brake after acknowledging the marshalling agent.
As a training initiative for the workforce, Groundforce Madrid designed a specific training centre with a scale model aircraft fuselage, where employees can practise driving and approaching GSE to an aircraft, before handling a real situation. This practical training is co-ordinated by the ramp trainers and is also in request to the need to address certain safety weaknesses detected during its safety team checks, internal and external audits.
Operation under lightning has been one of the major concerns of Hong Kong International airport. HKIA’s effort to balance between airport operation and ramp safety in lighting weather can be dated all the way back to before 2000. HKIA introduced the Airport Lightning Warning System to classify lightning weather, determine ramp operations and warn ground staff. All aircraft in HKIA are earthed by line maintenance staff connecting earthing cables between aircraft landing gear dedicated earthing points and ground earthing points near aircraft stop bar markings, once their chocks are in position; earthing can only be exempted when lightning is within 1 kilometre of the surrounding the area. Mandated in 2013, the procedure can greatly reduce the risk of direct strike, touch potential, side flash and step potential, by reducing the potential difference between the aircraft and nearby ramp operators. In the first seven months in 2013, six ramp operators were injured through lightning strikes. After mandatory earthing came into effect in August, ramp staff made it through the lightning-intense summer and autumn with zero lightning-related injuries.
Edwin Tan, Frankie Lim, Henry Selvarajah, Patrick Chan and Sim Seng Moh were involved in this innovation. Several incidents of slight dents and scratches occurred previously during the opening and closing of wide-body aircraft doors, which resulted in unnecessary flight delays and expensive aircraft repairs, amongst others. The improper docking of joint container and pallet loaders to the aircraft, used as the platform for staff to open and close these doors, were found to be the main root cause of these damages. As part of the preventive measures, SATS designed and fabricated 1.7 metre high ramp ladders for use as platforms for opening and closing of all wide-body aircraft doors. This standardised design is able to handle all wide-body aircraft types safely, and incorporates an auto-locking brake system that eliminates the need for tie-down, even under strong wind conditions, but yet is light enough to be pushed manually by a single staff member. These ramp ladders are now deployed at each aircraft.
In view of operational requirements and local legislation restrictions, service stairs with a fixed safety barrier are required to operate cargo hold doors of wide-bodied aircraft. When airline customers started to introduce A380 aircraft for their long haul flights, a potential risk of aircraft damage caused by the cargo hold door hitting the safety barrier of the service stairs was identified. Because of the design of the cargo hold door of this kind of aircraft, the operator has to position the service stairs very close to the cargo door side in order to reach the door lever above. Once the door lever is pulled and the lock is released, the cargo hold door will swing outward and could hit the safety barrier if there is any judgement error in positioning the stairs. After reviewing the work process and possible risk mitigation options, a part of JAS’s innovation saw the modification of the safety barrier by installing a full size cushion in bright yellow on the side facing the aircraft. The solution has been found to be very effective: it has avoided aircraft damage where any potential contact might occur, and the bright colour helps the operator judge the distance from the aircraft door more accurately when positioning the stairs.