Key Points:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) designed to enhance the safety of ground crew involved in aircraft towing and marshalling.

  • The SAFO was issued in response to two severe incidents: one involving a wing walker who was seriously injured and another where a ramp agent was killed.

  • Although the FAA has not identified any systemic issues, it recommended a series of best practices for airlines to follow, such as chocks installation and clearance protocols.

Safety Measures for Aircraft Towing and Ground Handling Scrutinized in New SAFO

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) with the aim of minimizing the risks faced by ground personnel who are involved in towing and guiding aircraft on the tarmac. The agency's recommendations include a set of best practices that operators should adhere to in order to ensure ground safety.

According to the FAA, the impetus for issuing the SAFO was a pair of accidents involving ground staff during aircraft towing and handling procedures. In one episode, a wing walker sustained severe injuries after being hit by an airplane's trailing edge flaps and subsequently run over by the main landing gear. In another tragic occurrence, a ramp agent lost their life after being ingested into a running engine.

The safety alert stipulates that chocks should be positioned whenever aircraft towing comes to a halt. It also recommends that ground activities should commence only once chocks are securely in place. Additionally, all personnel must steer clear of the aircraft until it has completely stopped and should also maintain a safe distance from the engines until they have been turned off.

Despite the serious nature of the recent incidents, the FAA noted that there is no evidence of a wider systemic issue. However, given the severity of the accidents, the agency saw fit to issue the SAFO to serve as a reminder and establish clear protocols.