1.0 Why Apron Safety ?

There are a large number of activities taking place on airport aprons, mainly within a congested and time-sensitive environment.

Ensuring a high level of safety on the apron by identifying the hazards and implementing mitigation measures in collaboration with the airport stakeholders falls under the auspices of the safety management system.

The responsibility of ensuring a high level of safety for all aviation related operations lies with the airport operator but must be shared with all involved parties.

1.1 What is Apron and are the operations that take place at Apron?

The airport apron is the area of an airport where aircraft is parked, and operations of loading, unloading, refueling and passenger embarkation and disembarkation takes place.

The following are the major operations that take place at the apron that require adherence to TLS (Target Level Safety) :

  1. Maintenance of Apron Layout, Marking and Sign
  2. Apron Safety Rules and Regulations
  3. Maintenance of Apron Installations
  4. Inspection for Sufficient lighting in the airport environment
  5. Operations at Apron that involve maneuvering of vehicle and aircraft
  6. Apron Management and stand allocation
  7. Apron Cleanliness
  8. Apron Spillage Procedures
  9. Passenger evacuation during emergency
  10. Maintenance Of Emergency Equipments

Now let us dig deep into each of the above operations.

1. Maintenance of Apron Layout, Marking and Sign

The safety of operations on an apron area can be enhanced if the area is planned from the start with adequate space. However, many airports develop over time and face planning challenges as they grow. Thus having a master plan taking into account the demand of the future is crucial.

Guidance on the apron layout and markings is provided in ICAO Annex 14 – Aerodromes, Volume 1, the ICAO Aerodrome Design Manual, Part 2 (Taxiways, Aprons and Holding Bays).

Road markings and signs should, as far as reasonably possible, replicate those used on the public roads. This will ensure driver familiarity and reduce the chances of misunderstandings.

Markings and signage should:

  • Remain in good condition
  • They should be provided to agreed standards
  • Be of an adequate size and placed in good locations with clear lines of visibility to those expected to see them
  • Checks should regularly be undertaken to ensure that no confusion in signage has appeared or that sightlines have been blocked

Visual aids are cues for pilots, marshallers, air traffic controllers and airside vehicle drivers to help them provide a safe environment for aircraft operations. Visual aids comprise:

• markings, markers, and signs (visible by day); and

• lights and beacons (visible by night).

1.1 Some of the markings of concern to drivers at the airside are:

Road Signs

Common road signs are used at airside and mean exactly what they do on public roads. Drivers must take notice of all airside signage on the Airport, particularly STOP and GIVE WAY signs and SPEED LIMITS of areas.

1.2 While establishing new or alternative markings the following must be taken care of:

  • Particular care should be taken when establishing new marking or sign, removing of marking or sign, providing alternative marking or sign and establishing temporary marking or sign
  • Clear new signage should be used
  • Any superfluous paint markings should be blacked out or removed
  • Changes should be widely promulgated to all road users in advance
  • Where appropriate, height restriction signage should be installed on air bridges, underpasses, and at other locations where vehicles may travel

2. Apron Safety Rules and Regulations

All drivers must be aware of all safety rules and regulations to be followed at the apron. Some of the rules and regulations are as follows which must be adhered to while driving around the aircraft:

  • Drivers must never approach or drive behind an aircraft with its engines running.
  • Drivers must give way to all moving aircraft including aircraft under tow.
  • Drivers must never drive under the wing or fuselage of an aircraft except where expressly authorized (e.g. Refueling). This could injure them or their vehicle could easily damage sensitive and expensive aircraft components.
  • When parking a vehicle at the side of an aircraft, care should be taken to ensure other services, such as refuelling and catering are not impeded, and the wheels should be turned away from the aircraft.
  • Drivers must never turn towards the aircraft when intending to vacate the area.
  • Drivers of airside vehicles should avoid reversing. If a vehicle cannot be removed safely without a reversing procedure then the driver should take the following procedures: a)Apply the handbrake and turn off the engine; b)Physically check behind and above for any possible obstructions; c)Ensure that someone is available to stand near the vehicle to warn of any possible collision
  • When marshalling duties are being performed, drivers must ensure that they do not impede or drive near a marshaller or the aircraft under their control.

2.1 Airside Vehicle Speed Limits

When Airside, drivers must obey all signs and unless otherwise indicated adhere to the following speed limits:

  • Perimeter Road 30km
  • Service Road 20km
  • Head of Stand Road 15km
  • Tail of stand road 15k
  • Interstand Road 15km

2.2 Safety Distances

Drivers must be aware of the following safety distances when operating in the vicinity of aircraft:

a) Drivers should not drive, stop or park a vehicle within 3 metres of parked aircraft, except when required for servicing of that aircraft;

b) Drivers should not drive vehicles within 15 metres of a hydrant point, aircraft fuel tank filling point or vent outlet during fuelling operations, unless there is an operational requirement to do so. Any contact with the fuel hydrants, hoses and cables that are connecting the aircraft with the refueling vehicle must be avoided at all cost.

c) Drivers must stay well clear of an aircraft when the anti-collision beacons are operating.

Anti- collision beacons indicate that the engines are running or about to be started or that the aircraft is about to be moved. The beacons are usually displayed above and below the aircraft fuselage on larger aircraft and on top of the tail on smaller aircraft types. The beacons are flashing red coloured.

Other warning signs are: –

  • The aerobridge is retracting or retracted
  • Aircraft hold closed and no vehicles will be left servicing the aircraft
  • Pushback tug is attached
  • Wheel chocks are removed

d) Drivers should always stay at least 75 metres away from the rear of operating aircraft to avoid engine blast. This distance may increase for larger aircraft and at breaks release thrust. Engine ingestion is the term used to describe the way in which an aircraft can suck anything into its intake area. Always stay at least 7.5 metres from the front and to the side of engines to avoid ingestion.

e) The use of mobile phones/radios is not permitted within 15 metres of a hydrant point, aircraft fuel tank filling point or vent outlet when that aircraft is being refuelled.

2.3 Airside vehicles and GSE

Drivers are to ensure that the vehicle they are driving airside is fully serviceable and in good working condition (e.g. not leaking oil or fuel). If your vehicle becomes immobilised during operations the following actions are to be taken:

a) Ensure rotating beacon is switched on;

b) Ensure that no items have spilled from the vehicle and that there is no debris on the area you have been driving. All debris is to be removed immediately (e.g. shredded tyre rubber).

c) Make sure that any fuel/oil spill is reported and cleaned up properly.

d) Notify the Duty Airport Operations Officer.

Riding of bicycles is NOT permitted airside, except on Perimeter Road or as authorized by the Operations Manager.

A vehicle must also not operate with a passenger load in excess of its designated capacity.

Remember: NO SEAT, NO RIDE

2.4 Right-of-Way Priority

Right-of-way to airside traffic in the following priority:

  • Aircraft (under power, on pushback, or under tow) moving alone or accompanied by a marshalling crew
  • Emergency vehicles with activated emergency lights and/or audible sirens that are responding to an emergency
  • Maintenance vehicles—such as snow plows—engaged in operations
  • All other vehicular traffic.

2.5 Workplace Health And Safety

The health and safety of all staff, airport or third party, working airside needs to be given careful consideration. One method to do this is to consider the following options (item 1 being the best and item 6 being the minimum):

a. Eliminate: cease doing the task; remove the hazard altogether

b. Reduce: reduce the time exposed to the hazard; substitute with something less hazardous (e.g. a 12V system to replace a 240V system)

c. Isolate: physically isolate people from the hazard – fit guards; enclose the hazard

d. Control: create a safer working environment; require work permits to be issued; ensure appropriate supervision is in place; train staff; require staff to follow procedures

e. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): issue personal protective equipment appropriate to the identified hazard; provide training; do fit testing; monitor use; and perform regular maintenance

f. Discipline: put procedures in place requiring staff to behave in a particular way

Note: As regards PPE, it is a recognized best practice for an airport operator to ensure that staff wear the required PPE and follow the procedures when carrying out a specific task.

Items of PPE may include:

  • Ear defenders,
  • hi-visibility jackets,
  • safety shoes,
  • gloves,
  • goggles,
  • hard hats,
  • respirators,
  • fall protection etc.

Ideally, all people working on the airside areas should be presented with a general safety culture where it is expected that PPE is worn. In such a safety culture, any person identified without the appropriate PPE should be challenged by any other individual. In addition, this subject should be reviewed jointly by a number of companies that operate in the same area and joint responsibility should be undertaken to reduce exposure.

Reviewing causes of staff absence / sick-leave can reveal trends that can usefully focus on preventative steps. Removal of the source of the identified problem is the best method to bring about improvements in health and safety – wearing appropriate PPE, although highly recommended, is the last step to be taken when nothing else can be achieved to reduce the exposure.

3. Maintenance of Apron Installations

Major tasks to be taken care in this section are:

  1. Fuel Hydrant Pit
  2. Air Bridge Operations
  3. Bridge Mounted Equipment
  4. Advance Visual Docking Guidance System
1. Fuel Hydrant Pits:

Fuel hydrants offer improvements to the aircraft turnaround process and can deliver greater volumes of fuel than fuel tankers.

Safety Concerns:

a) Awareness of the hoses and electrical connectors should form a part of apron safety training and efforts should be made to highlight them visually to reduce the chances of accidental contact.

b) Emergency fuel  cut-off switches should be provided and clearly signed at the head of stand and remain unobstructed at all times.

2. Air Bridge Operations

The safe operation of an air bridge should require specific training to the operator and the training should include: 

  • Maneuvering, steering, and speed of operation
  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Approach to the aircraft
  • Setting the auto leveler
  • Security and safety procedures concerning any doors
  • Backing off the aircraft
  • Correct parking
  • Use of cameras, mirrors and visual checks for any obstructions (including parked mobile equipment and vehicles)
  • Emergency procedures

The following must be paid special attention to:

a. If new air bridges or models with different controls are installed then suitable training material and specific permits will need to be developed.

b. The area used for the movement of the air bridge should be kept free of vehicles and / or equipment to ensure its safe operation.

c. When not in use, the air bridge should be parked with the wheel base in the designated position prior to the arrival of aircraft at the stand.

d. Airport operators should consider installing height restriction signage, markings to indicate difference in  level, instructing users not to leave any garbage nearby ensuring emergency exits remain unobstructed at all times. In addition airport operators may install tyre guards for extra protection.

 3. Bridge Mounted Equipments (BME)

a. Fixed electrical ground power (400Hz) is often provided at airports as a cost-effective and environmentally   friendly alternative to GPU (ground power unit).

Supplying the cable to the aircraft can be done in two ways, either via underground pits or on wheels from a storage area at the head of stand. Whichever method is used, the cable must be stored away after each use to reduce the risk of damage.

b. Pre-conditioned air is an alternative to an APU running to cool or heat the cabin of parked aircraft, saving on fuel burn and reducing noise and emissions.

Hoses used for the air supply to the aircraft should be highly visible (striped) when extended out to the aircraft to avoid accidental damage by vehicles or being a tripping hazard to staff.

If the airport provides these facilities, then it will be necessary to produce training material for users to be trained and tested in the safe, correct and proper use of this equipment.

4. AVDGS (advance visual docking guidance system)

Stopping an aircraft at the correct location to enable the air bridge and various services to successfully connect to it requires precise guidance.

The basic elements involved in the systems are to provide left / right (azimuth) guidance as well as stopping position guidance and distance to go guidance.

The calculation of the aircraft stopping position needs to take into account:  a. The movement envelope of the air bridge (if provided)

b. The location of the fuel hydrants and length of hose available

c. The location of any other fixed services (e.g. Fixed Electrical Ground Power – FEGP)

d. The space required around the aircraft for apron servicing

e. Clearance from the taxiway or roads

The aircraft type itself is a key factor. Details will need to be provided by the manufacturer on the overall aircraft docking and stopping position.

Next we will be learning about the Inspection for Sufficient lighting in the airport environment i.e. the 4th subject under this section. Please refer to Apron Safety (Part 3 of 3 ) for further details on the same.

Apron Safety (Part 3 of 3)

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