When discussing safety and security of airport operations, many people think of the security procedures put in place inside of airports for the thousands of passengers that travel daily. While airport security checkpoints remain a significant and vital operation of airports across the world, ramp operations and ground handling play a critical role in international airlines operations. The ramps at airports are highly complex areas, with an array of movement, activity, and personnel operating together. However, due to the number of different organizations present and the amount of equipment used, safety and security remain a major concern in the aviation industry.
Airport ramps accommodate several groups of people that must work together to achieve success. Personnel from airlines, contractors, maintenance staff, engineers, airport police and fire, fuelers, and ground handlers may all be present at once, delivering a variety of tasks at any given time. It’s easy to understand how incredibly important it is to have a cohesive guide of regulations and procedures put in place to keep airport ramps running smoothly and safely. Despite the procedures designed to keep the area safe and secure, every year accidents happen that can be both costly to airlines and dangerous for the employees working in these critical positions.
Airport ramp safety has improved drastically over the past few years. Even with annual improvements that reevaluate and tighten security measures, an estimated 27,000 incidents occur every year globally. Additionally, approximately 243,000 people are injured each year due to accidents and incidents that take place. These accidents cost airlines up to $10 billion a year. Primary factors of these incidents are due to human error, inadequate training, congestion at the ramp, and poor equipment maintenance. The most significant impact to safety is collision between aircraft and ground support vehicles and even workers. Inclement weather and equipment failure also occur jeopardizing the safety for all involved.
Occasionally, incidents such as stolen airplanes have occured, leaving aviation professionals and citizens alike wondering what went wrong. This made headlines In August of 2018, when an airport employee stole an airplane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The unauthorized takeoff, which resulted in the death of the man who took it, resulted in a major review of security measures and remains a lesson to learn from for those in the industry.
While it is clear that the regulations and procedures put in place to increase safety and security of airport ramps has mitigated many potential risks, aviation professionals will need to continuously work to improve the operations of aircraft ramps and ground handling. With improved communication, training, and organization, we can work towards a more safer and secure system worldwide.