The next operation at the apron that must meet TLS is Inspection for Sufficient lighting in the airport environment as continued from part 2 of 3.

4. Inspection for Sufficient lighting in the airport environment

Well lighted apron areas will not only enable ground service providers to perform operations safely, but also allow aircraft crew members and passengers to safely board and deplane. aircraft. Thus it must be checked that the luminous or the intensity, spread of lights on apron is as per specifications in Annex 14.

5. Operations at Apron that involve maneuvering of vehicle and aircraft

Major tasks to be taken care under this section are:

  • Marshaling or Toeing of Aircraft 
  • Refueling
  • Unloading and Loading of baggage and cargo
  • Passenger Disembarkation and Embarkation
1. Marshaling or Towing of Aircraft 

Marshalers should always stand at designated positions. Marshalling signals should be performed at a steady pace and should not become stylized with local variations from the standard. Illuminated marshalling wands are available for marshalling in darkness or low visibility.

If sight lines from the approaching aircraft become obstructed during a maneuver, then two-man marshalling should be used to ensure continuity of safe guidance.

Airport operators should also establish guidelines to ensure aircraft pushbacks are done as safely as possible. The following should be considered prior to or during the operation:

  • Ground crews are to ensure areas behind the aircraft are clear.
  • Do not commence a pushback if it will conflict with another pushback already in progress or with an aircraft that is ready to taxi.
  • Vehicle operators should be aware of dangers associated with passing behind an aircraft being pushed back.
  • Airport operators should ensure good cooperation and exchange of information between apron management services, ATC and ground service providers.
2. Refueling

At airports with a hydrant pit system it is prudent to ensure that some fuel tanker capacity is retained as this will be required if it becomes necessary to defuel an aircraft for any reason.

The key points to be considered for safe fueling procedures include:

  • A single person should be in charge of the fueling process.
  • All staff in the vicinity of the fueling operation should be trained in the operation of any hydrant emergency shut-off system and appropriate firefighting equipment.
  • Fueling zones should be established around all filling and venting points in use on the aircraft and vehicle.
  • The aircraft and the refueller should be chocked.
  • All hoses used in fueling should be electrically bonded.
  • Personnel should not be able to generate sources of ignition accidentally.
  • Equipment such as cone should be placed at appropriate positions.
  • Escape routes for staff, passengers and vehicles should be free of obstructions.
  • Aircraft APUs should not be started during fueling.
  • A fueling safe zone should be established (a minimum radius of 3 m is recommended) around the aircraft, within which the use of Portable.
  • Electronic Devices (e.g. mobile telephones, handheld radios, pagers, photographic flash bulbs or electronic flash equipment), as well as other sources of ignition or fire are prohibited.

If passengers are on board during fueling, precautions may be required by the CAA, airport operator, aircraft manufacturer or airline operator to reduce risks ALARP. These precautions may include:

a. One step ladder or aerobridge should be kept connected while fueling in case of any emergency in which passengers need to evacuate the aircraft.

b. The aircraft internal ‘NO SMOKING’ and ‘EXIT’ signs must be illuminated.

c. Seat belts should not be fastened during refueling.

d. Passengers should be advised that fueling is taking place.

e. Adequate numbers of cabin staff must be present to assist with a possible evacuation.

f. Airport firefighting staff may need to be informed and possibly, RFFS vehicles parked on scene  in stand-by mode.

g. Communication should exist between the flight deck and the staff member in charge of  fueling.

Grounding and Bonding During Refuelling:

a. Where no electrical grounding is specified, the normal order of procedure to eliminate electrostatic discharge during fueling operations is as follows:

•Bonding of aircraft and fueling vehicle to one another

•Bonding of fuel nozzle to aircraft for over-wing fueling arrangements

b. Where electrical grounding is specified, the normal order of  procedure is as follows:

•Grounding of fueling vehicle

•Grounding of aircraft

•Bonding of aircraft and fueling vehicle to one another

•Bonding of fuel nozzle to aircraft for over-wing fueling arrangements

Note: On completion of fueling operations, all disconnections should be made in reverse order

3. Unloading and Loading of baggage and cargo

Safe operation of aircraft requires all hold cargo and baggage to be weighed (or an accurate estimate of weight provided by using “standard” values), it must be loaded correctly and secured to prevent movement in flight.

Loading should be in full accordance with the generally applicable regulations and limitations, the operators loading procedures and in accordance with the instructions given by the person with overall responsibility for the loading process for a particular flight. These loading instructions must match the requirements for baggage/cargo distribution stated within the aircraft load trim sheet.

Weight distribution between holds has a considerable effect upon the Centre of Gravity (CG)of the aircraft; load distribution will be specified on the Loading Instruction Form (LIF).

Netting is used to restrain bulk loaded loose baggage items within holds so that they do not move in flight. Any load that shifts in flight will move the aircraft’s centre of gravity and can cause control difficulties (in extreme cases causing loss of control) and prevent baggage door opening post flight. Cargo netting may also be used to divide larger holds into sections.

4. Passenger Embarkation and Disembarkation:

The airport operator should have a policy in place in the event fire alarms sound during the passenger boarding or deplaning process. The plan should include designated evacuation routes from buildings/aircraft into safe areas on the apron. Both routes and safe areas must be kept clear of vehicles, mobile equipment and other obstructions at all times to enable their safe use by passengers who will not be in familiar surroundings.  

As re-entry into the terminal building/aircraft may not be possible for some time, arrangements must be made to safely escort passengers and staff to an alternate, sheltered location in a timely fashion.

Special consideration should be given to adverse weather conditions, including possible lightning strikes. Procedures for dealing with evacuations of aircraft should be covered in the Airport Emergency Plan. When an evacuation occur, staff should muster passengers in a safe area until the fire services arrive.

6. Apron Management and Stand Allocation

The apron is a complex area of often intense activity as many different organizations attempt to turn an aircraft around in a limited space.

The safety aspects of this involve ensuring that aircraft can only be allocated to stands that are large enough to accommodate them with the required margins.

7. Apron cleanliness

Keeping the apron clean from FOD is an important aspect of housekeeping and will prevent damage to tyres and engines.

All apron staff should remove and dispose of any FOD found on the apron if they can do so safely. If they are unable to do so, location of FOD should be reported in a timely fashion to airport operations and / or maintenance for their follow-up.

FOD bins equipped with an attached lid can be an effective part of this process but they then need emptying periodically.

Aircraft stands should be inspected before the arrival of aircraft. In addition to these procedures, it may be necessary to sweep / clean the stands, airside roads and equipment areas to ensure the removal of all debris. Magnetic pick-up devices can be used to remove most metal objects.

8. Apron Spillage Procedures

Spillages during fueling operations can occur and a procedure to absorb the spilled fuel followed by proper disposal should be devised. At some airports it is possible to wash the fuel into the drainage system but at others an absorbent material needs to be used to soak up the fuel and ensure correct disposal. Local or national environmental protection guidelines should be adhered to at all times.

Common Spillages at apron are:

  • Water
  • Toilet waste
  • Ice cubes from aircraft galleys or catering trucks
  • Oil and hydraulic fluid
  • Other chemicals or HAZMAT

9. Passenger Evacuation During Emergency

Passengers may need to be evacuated from aircraft, buildings, terminals, or other structures at any time. To reduce the hazards as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) in these time-constrained activities involving a large number of people, an evacuation plan should exist, which will also contain provisions to stop aircraft from entering the apron area.

The plan should include:

  • Designated evacuation routes from buildings into safe areas on the apron.
  • Both routes and safe areas must be kept clear of vehicles, mobile equipment and other obstructions at all times to enable their safe use by passengers who are not familiar surroundings.
  • They should be well signposted or painted on the ground.
  • As re-entry into the building may not be possible for some time, arrangements must be made to safely escort passengers and staff to an alternate, sheltered location in a timely fashion.
  • Special consideration should be given to adverse weather conditions, including possible lightning strikes.

Note 1: Procedures for dealing with evacuations of aircraft or airport infrastructures should be covered in the Airport Emergency Procedures. Should an evacuation occur, staff should muster passengers in a safe area until the fire services arrive.

Note 2: The airport operator should have a policy in place in the event fire alarms sound during the passenger boarding or deplaning process, or for aircraft arriving at the terminal while the alarm is in progress.

In the event of a full or partial evacuation of the terminal, the following should be considered:

a) Deplaning of passengers at an air bridge or ground loading position should cease immediately. Passengers on board the aircraft should remain there. The entrance doors to the air bridge and/ or terminal, as well as the aircraft doors should be closed, thus creating a safety zone.

b) If the boarding process has been completed and the aircraft has not yet been cleared for push- back (baggage loading, etc., still in progress), the entrance doors to the bridge and / or terminal, as well as the aircraft doors should be closed, thus creating a safety zone.

c) If an immediate evacuation is required of the zone adjacent to where the aircraft is positioned, the boarding process should cease immediately and the entrance doors to the bridge and / or terminal, as well as the aircraft doors should be closed, thus creating a safety zone.

If the source of the alarm is on the air bridge, with resulting fire, smoke, or fumes, both boarding and deplaning of passengers should cease immediately. The entrance doors to the air bridge and / or terminal, as well as the aircraft doors should be closed, thus creating a safety zone and if possible, the aircraft should be pushed back from the bridge clear of the terminal.

Note 1: Push-backs should be done with the utmost care and aircraft should be pushed back an appropriate distance before applying thrust in order not to compromise the safety of passengers that may be evacuating onto the apron.

Ground operations personnel should advise inbound aircraft to either hold short of the air bridge or ground loading position, or, if the aircraft has just docked, to keep its doors closed as required. Passengers on board the aircraft should remain there for the duration of the alarm. Activities at apron may resume only after casue of alarm has been identifies and is mitigated.

10. Maintenance Of Emergency Equipments

Standards have been developed by the National Authorities for the usage and types of emergency equipment to be found on an airport and they should be maintained for better and optimum utilisation during their peroid of run.

2.0 Conclusion

Thus by now we all have understood the significance of safety in the airport environment and by no means can think of overlooking any safety issue because it may have a heavy price to pay.

It is the responsibility of every stakeholder to ensure safety compliance while stepping into the airport to allow the airport ecosystem carry its legacy of being the safest mode of transport.

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