View Full Version : Aircraft Trashed by Ground Handlers (again)

2nd Dec 2001, 18:31
For the 11th time in <3 years one of our A/C has been damaged after start up, by Ground Handlers attempting to tow away a GPU without first disconnecting it from the Aircraft !
I have been asked by some of my collegues to ask how widespread this problem is. We work for a relitively small regional Airline and the costs involved in , loss of customer revenue, rescheduling other Aircraft to cover the route whilst the damage is asessed and repaired, loss of customer confidence and our good reputation, are starting to mount. Who pays for all of this ?
Disconnecting the GPU before towing it away is not exactly rocket science. I also would have to say , what kind of training do the ground handlers receive. If removing a GPU succesfully from an A/C about to depart is such a major/complicated task, what would happen if there was an engine fire or such like during the start ? would these people be able to cope ?
Has it happened to you ?
Edited to add:-
After the last incident the Handlers seemed to mildly amused by it, they did not have the decency to apologise to the crew for the mayhem they caused, and then, had the audacity to whinge that our damaged A/C had to be removed to a remote location as they needed the stand for an incoming flight :mad:

[ 02 December 2001: Message edited by: KwikPhix ]

2nd Dec 2001, 18:57
Sometime ago whilst we were being loaded with mail the handlers came up to remove the tractor from the GPU. I'm not sure what kind of linkage there was between the GPU and the tractor but it was not properly disconnected.
As the tractor drove away it went very dark where we were sitting. (I should add that eating our "night mail sandwiches" was dodgy at the best of times but when you couldn't see which ones you were picking it was positively dangerous.) I looked up to see the GPU being trailed across the apron at high speed with the cable dragging behind it. As it passed the a/c on the next stand it eventually parted company from the tractor and freewheeled towards that a/c stopping just short of it. The tractor carried on oblivious to what had happened - only reappearing on the scene some time later.

Fortunately there was not much damage to the a/c and we were able to continue with the flight. In this particular instance the risk to the a/c parked next to us, and the loaders working in the area, was probably greater than the risk of damage to our own a/c.

I never heard anything back from the MOR which was filed.

2nd Dec 2001, 19:10
Oh it is VERY widespread unfortunately. :(

Another "clanger":


2nd Dec 2001, 19:26
Although its unfortunate for most involved, on the plus side it always keeps us Engineers in work........ 2 x 737s damaged badly this week at LGW by catering trucks......Door and door surround structure. :eek:

dallas dude
2nd Dec 2001, 19:36
Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

Hope the folks "saving" the expense of quality help are reminded to include damage repair in their calculations (of course, the insurance company will pick up the tab though).

2nd Dec 2001, 19:39
Posts [email protected] name the offending airports :(

no sig
2nd Dec 2001, 20:14

Afraid the insurance Companies will only pick up so much of the cost and most airlines have a high excess which comes off the bottom line. It's the other costs as highlighted above which also hit the hard, a/c out of service, delay, disruption - these incidents are serious.

Careful selection and training of ground handling staff is essential and removal of 'hold harmless agreements' in handling contracts. Yes perhaps the handling fees may go up as a result, but it might well focus them on ensuring their staff exercise max caution when working around aircraft.

2nd Dec 2001, 21:23
Depending on your aircraft type (won't work for a Saab 340), why not make it SOP that the GPU stays where it is until the aircraft has pushed back and don't give the "brakes off" until you have seen the cable pulled clear?

2nd Dec 2001, 21:39
I keep a digital camara in crew bag.
I just love the reaction when taking the picture of the ofending driver & vehicle involved to attach to insurance claim.
For some reason the offenders stop laughing at that point.

2nd Dec 2001, 23:01
Remember one Captain that taxied away before the ground crew were able to move the GPU. He didn't get very far before there was a grinding jolt as metal struck metal.

Also remember the case of an overzealous Captain that set off at a hot trot before the poor ground engineer could uncouple his headset from the aircraft. He sprinted the fastest 100 meters ever, rather than be sucked in by the CFM 56-3 B2 that was right up his @ss! Captain couldn't understand the expletives coming through his headset!

Apart from that, sadly had a number of instances of stairs, luggage conveyors and the like punching holes in an otherwise very serviceable aircraft. Rarely does the culprit's company ever get to pay the cost. You have to proove negligence first. The airline normally ends up springing for it, due excess on insurance policy.

I caught every culprit, and not one of them was in the slightest concerned about what he had done! Spanish and Greek airports were the worst in my experience.

Check 6
3rd Dec 2001, 00:25
This must be very common. It happened to me in Long Beach, California, in 1999. A ground handler asked me if he could use the GPU attached to my Learjet 35 to start another aircraft. As I was not departing for another two hours, it was fine by me.

He jumped on the tractor and drove away, without disconnecting first.

It cost their insurance carrier about $30,000 U.S., because they had to provide me with another Lear 35 while the damage was being repaired.

And Hi-Vis vests did not help at all!! Sorry, I could not help myself there.

3rd Dec 2001, 03:29
No Sig, Dallas Dude, Ice Pack:

Spot on, all of you. I do hope this thread is read by insurance/reinsurance people. Digital cameras should be standard issue for any crew responsible for expensive equipment.

As for "held harmless agreements", they should be banished or at the very least capped at the airline's deductible.

The guiding principle for any insured party is, according to the Lloyds Agency manual I pretty much kept in my hip pocket for 20 years or so, to act as if uninsured. An on-the-spot photograph or two is worth much more than a thousand words.

And to anyone who questions the hip pocket, I have always worn baggy pants.

3rd Dec 2001, 04:23
Why are'nt the handling agents using the hand signal for gpu removal ? i.e. the T shape being pulled and the reciprical back from the flight deck. This is/was SOP. Still being used at MAN.

V1 Rotate
3rd Dec 2001, 10:40
I operate an HS 125 in North Africa and I consider the most dangerous place to be the Apron. The people who work on the ground just do not seem to care. Everyday we witness vehicles being driven reclessly in close proximity to aircraft. It is disgraceful how much damage gets inflicted on aircraft by ground staff.
V1 Rotate
:( :( :( :( :(

David Hurst
3rd Dec 2001, 11:15
Surely blame can also be laid at the door of the bean counters. They eternal search for cheaper turnrounds by the carriers pressures the handling agents to cut costs and therefore employ less qualified people. We had a 747 cowl pierced at Manchester UK while parked and it was only spotted during the walkround. No-one ever put their hand up to admit blame or seemed bothered that they had risked 450+ lives on the vigilence of the guy doing the walkround.

3rd Dec 2001, 11:30
One Day I got to my destination and I was told I had a phone call. It was the ground crew calling to see if I still had the grounding Cable.

3rd Dec 2001, 11:44
And might I add there is definately a correlation between how new your aircraft is and its likelyhood of being driven into. In Our company, we have had a number of new aircraft and it appears that every one has been driven into within a few weeks of arrival (in one case it was a few days). Once the aircraft are a bit older it seems that it is no longer worth the groundcrews time to ram it and they seem to be okay. Perhaps it is like the attraction of shiney new cars which causes birds to s**t on them once they are washed, perhaps shiney aircraft attract ground handlers like a moth to a flame.

Not sure its got anything to do with speed though, often into MXP and FCO and the ground equipment there has a minimum ground speed of around 50mph +...the fuel tankers are very impressive as they lean into the bends at that speed it has to be said :)

3rd Dec 2001, 11:59
well it happens everywhere.. we have basically almost every day one of our planes dinged up by a water truck, baggage trolly, catering truck, stairs, etc..

once someone drove a bagage trolly under one of our CRJs and it got stuck so hard, the tail had to be jacked up to et it out.. stuff like that

But you need to consider it's not only Pilots having fatigue.. also ground crews are affected by night time shifts and lots of work (with not too good a payment usually)


3rd Dec 2001, 13:00
For all those decrying the 'hold harmless' clause, this was changed with the 1998 version of the IATA Standard Ground Handling Agreement (SGHA) as it was considered outdated. It was fine when airlines had reciprocal arrangements and worked on a 'knock for knock' basis however, in the modern world when the majority of handling is performed by 3rd party agents, it was no longer applicable.

The new arrangement (Annex A, Section 8.5) is meant to cover the hull deductable and has been limited to <US$3,000 & >US$1.5M. The lower amount is there as the paperwork involved in collecting US$3,000 is probably more than the cost of repair & the upper limit was taken as the max hull deductable on a B744 or B777. Each aircraft type has the maximum defined by the contract to prevent dodgy operators claiming US$1.5M for a clapped out H748 or SH36. My company changed from the old 1993 format to the new 1998 contract at next renewal &, yes, our rates did rise between 2-5% but that has been recovered already with claims. Any company still working on the 'old' contract must have money to burn!

As regards the towing away of GPU/ASU/Water service before diconnection, it is a very common ramp incident. Investigation reveals that, most times (not always as there are idiots in all walks of life!), it is caused by ramp workers rushing to get the job done, sometimes within a very short timeframe that is dictated by the airline concerned. Our procedures have been changed so that no towable equipment is to be connected to both aircraft & tug at the same time and stations that continue to flount this rule are picked up on regular audits. Of course, this does not help when the equipment is self propelled!

I know from bitter experience that standards change, not only from agent but also from station to station with the same agent, but don't tar everybody with the same brush. There are some very good, safe & efficiant handlers out there whose staff are paid a small percentage of aircrew wages & have to work at all times & in the worst of weathers. I'm all for cameras & pilot reports as, at the end of the day, constructive reporting will help to make the ramp a safer place for all involved.

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: RampTramp ]

3rd Dec 2001, 20:34
Damage to aircraft on the ramp cost the medium sized regional airline that I work for 3.5 million in 2000. We had approximately 25 hits at an average cost per hit of 130,000. The costs included loss of revenue while aircraft were out of service, ferrying and re-positioning costs, passenger transport, compensation and refreshment bills, repair work and materials, knock-on effects on the rest of the aircraft in the fleet to maintain the flying programme, chartering costs where another aircraft had to be brought in to fly the sector etc., etc., etc.
The reason for all these incidents is that ground handling is totally undervalued and inadequately controlled within the aviation industry as a whole. In Flight operations and Engineering, safety is achieved by being tightly regulated by the CAA to well defined standards that are regularly audited. The same cannot be said for Ramp operations. On most airport ramps there is little or no control over working practices, too few people working to totally unrealistic turnround times, with frankly laughable levels of training and competency for the jobs they do. Until the CAA and the aviation industry realises that thewholeoperation needs to be properly managed and regulated, including ground handling, these unnecessary losses will continue to mount, and people will continue to be seriously injured and occasionally killed. In my opinion there is a need for ramp operatives to become properly licensed and trained in the same way that engineers and pilots need to be properly trained and licensed for the roles they perform. And if you think this sounds like a ridiculous suggestion with no hope of being taken seriously by the bean counters - think again. The losses quoted above due to ramp damage equalled 43% of the airline's profit that year! Somebody please wake up the accountants and let's get a grip of ground handling.

A and C
3rd Dec 2001, 21:16
The ground handlers are coming in for a lot of stick here but it is not always there fault and some do take a pride in what they do and in the past have reported to me things that could have been a flight saftey hazard.

The general level of dis-respect for them in the industry is high and is reflected on this forum ,i once saw a handler drive a belt loader up to an aircraft cargo door stop apply the hand brake dis-engage the road wheel drive and select the belt and then get off the driving seat and move to away to start loading the baggage , the belt loader then jumped forward and struck the aircraft.

The incident was attended by the police ,airport duty manager and the company duty manager all had one aim and that was to nail some one for the damage ,the easy target was the driver of the belt loader and all of the above engaged in an agressive questioning of the man to a point at which he would have probably admitted to the great train robbery it was to the authoritys utter dismay when i pointed out that i had witnessed the incident and that he had carried out his dutys properly.

In the following weeks i had three further visits from the authoritys to check if i had got may statment "correct".

With the "letts nail some poor sod " attitude of the airport and company management along with the aggressive police attitude it is a wonder and to the great credit of the ground handlers that damage gets reported.

Ramp damage is a great problem to the industry and to a great extent lack of training is at the root of most of the damage ,training is of course a management responsability.......I wonder if this and the agressive management attitude are conected ?

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: A and C ]edited for spelling

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: A and C ]

4th Dec 2001, 00:44
Ground handling companies are recruiting the wrong type of workforce. Sounds harsh but true. The job does require a tremendous amount of responsibility but the bottom line is that salaries being offered usually only attract the average man/woman who is on the dole and struggling to keep his/her family.

Where I work, accident levels are fairly low when compared to other UK airports but unfortunately still happen. Is this down to training? Possibly yes. But it is also down to how the companies are being run from the top level, and this is where the problem lies. A happy workforce often represents a safe workforce and unfortunately the guys in this "profession" aren't always too happy.

Also, ramp staff aren't always to blame. How about pilot taxiing 50 yards with towbar and by-pass pin still in place! Or pilot who gives "brakes off" signal for push-back but doesn't actually release the brakes!

Accidents will always happen unfortunately. Hopefully over time, CAA regulations may come into higher effect in relation to ground handling and silly mistakes by all parties involved can be reduced so all will benefit financially!

PS. Willing to help with any ground handling queries.

4th Dec 2001, 05:18
Tug4isfastest - I have to agree with you that recruitment selection may be a problem. The other weekend I watched two bored ?? ramp agents bouncing their vans up and down against the hand breaks next to our aircraft at Stansted. Just simply unbelievable that these two indivuals are employed and trusted with the resposibility in assisting the operation of commercial aircraft.
:confused: :confused:

On the other hand though, a few years back, during a baggage handlers strike, the ground crew in the process of pushing our aircraft from its stand were assaulted and the keys stolen from the tug by angry baggage handlers. Kudos to the ground staff - they dusted themselves off, fetched the spare keys for the tug and got us off the gate. Shame more like them don't work at Stansted.

Enter after the Virgin
4th Dec 2001, 06:58
I was unfortunate enough to fall for this one, Back ten years ago I was ground ops for a small Biz Jet operator. The boss of which pulled the GPU away from HIS Lear 35 with it still attached, ripping the skin.
After a few weeks up at NEA in MAN, it returned only for me to do exactly the same only days later !!!, The Boss could not really say much in the circumstances, I think the shock was so overwhelming. I even kept my job.

Lu Zuckerman
4th Dec 2001, 07:17
It works the other way as well. This happened many years ago. I was giving ground taxi signals to the pilot of an Air Force B-25. The pilot refused to recognize my signals and motioned me to move out of the way. I kept providing the signals because the pilot was now taxiing past a blind corner formed by our hanger. He gunned the engines and I was obliged to get the hell out of the way. Just as he cleared the blind corner one of our fire trucks took several feet off of his right wing tip. Our engineering officer soundly chewed him out and another plane had to come from his home base and pick up him and his crew. I have no idea what happened when he got back to his base.

Elliot Moose
4th Dec 2001, 07:59
At the small northern outfit I was working for we had the same problem a few times. One guy pretty much ripped nosewheel door apart on a 748 by jumping on and driving away in the wrong direction.
As for the ground staff, the recruitment of good people was doubly hard since the pay sucked, the hours were long, and the location VERY remote. Pretty hard to find somebody dumb enough to work 12hr days six days a week for $9 an hour in -40C weather. The only viable solution was to hire pilot "wannabes" to do the work with the promise of a nice shiny turboprop in a year or so if they behave. I did it myself, and found it to be a real learning experience and an excellent way to learn the reality of heavy hauling in the bush. Seldom saw a plane get bent by a pilot, but there were lots of dings, etc. from those that weren't. It became really clear that just how valuable a trained and conscientious ground staffer can be as opposed to one who got fired at the local gas station. The unfortunate thing was that nobody higher up seemed to catch on that the incentive has to be there for somebody to perform well in what might be considered a "menial" job. If they had just paid a bit more, and made life a little more attractive they would never have had to keep the losers around. They could have better insisted on quality from all the staff like they could from those with the incentive (i.e. the wannabe's).

4th Dec 2001, 14:21
Had a drain mast knocked off by a baggage belt at ZTH Greece. No one would own up to it. Lack of a blame free safety culture. Own up and get sacked. More safety awareness and training along with a no blame safety culture would not go amiss. ;)

4th Dec 2001, 17:42
I have seen the results of several ground handling accidents/incidents resulting in aircraft damage, most could have been avoided by improved awareness and training. The majority of handling staff I have encountered are hard working and helpful but as always there is a minority who treat the ramp as a race track/skid pan and who have no conception whatsoever of the potentially serious consequences of causing even (perceived) minor damage.
Ramp safety and awareness is pretty much taken for granted in some circles and in the current economic climate an insurance claim may be acceptable to the beancounters when compared to the blanket training/paying of handling staff to a higher level. So as long as ground equipment and vehicles need to be operated around aircraft on the ramp, these accidents will continue to happen.

5th Dec 2001, 02:59
Another note on ground handling operations.

It is a very profitable business when run properly, however, the hard workers see no rewards. I've seen sizeable amounts of cash being handed directly to managers from airline representatives, and then not seen much of it after that!

Also, ground crew place a fair amount of trust on flight crew during a/c pushback just as pilots place trust on ground crews.
With respect to the amount of training given, it isn't hard to say who you would trust the most!

More selective recruiting required, but will never happen. More usually a serious lack of applicants for the summer season means ground handling companies can't afford to be fussy. They just require the manpower in any form!

5th Dec 2001, 05:09
This does happen from time to time, however could be caused by overwork. As comapines seek to increase productivity and reduce costs, the strain has to be taken somewhere.
As for moving the aircraft off a stand, this almost certainly would have come from Airfield Operations.

5th Dec 2001, 13:01
Tug4isfastest, which handling company have you worked for that makes so much money? The one I worked for (Europes largest at the time), didn't make that much money. Contribution margins were about 2-4% PBIT. Thats not a lot of money, and the airlines are always trying to lower the rates, and can usually do so because there is always another handling agent prepared to buy the market share. Hence the need for agents to employ people on short term / part time contracts, which can have an influence on ramp safety. With regard to cash being given to managers, are you referring to cash hanling fees? Do you really expect the managers to turn round and give it to the staff? The biggest things to do with ramp safety are sufficient training, which most handling agents do provide, and a fair system for evaluating the cause and guilty party if there is one. Too many times have we seen potentially disastrous incidents go unreported due to the employee not wanting to be blamed unfairly. If an accident is truly an accident then the employee should not necessarily be punished. Although saying that, a few years ago, I had a ramp agent who had had three airframe contacts in one season, so he had to be suspended from ramp duty and put in the baggage hall, as he was obviously too unlucky.

6th Dec 2001, 06:21
Mishandled- The organisation I work for is a profitable part of a larger well known company. Albeit more so in recent years than this one.

The money I was talking about was "backhanders" outwith the handling fees paid directly to the company.

I also totally agree that part time/temporary staff are required to raise manning levels whilst keeping wages lower, but it would be better if it was done more selectively. Unfortunately it is very difficult to attract people to the job other than the ones who really do just need a JOB.
It isn't a career as such although I do believe that if run properly, it could be.
Training is perfectly adequate but not thorough. Very lapse in some areas of importance ie. being "signed off" to operate a hi-loader without actually putting it onto an a/c or anything resembling one! We all know what one of these babies can do to the side of an aeroplane!

6th Dec 2001, 13:32
I used to be an Ops manager at a UK airport when much of the ground handling was done "in-house". We were not competing on price, but it has to be said, we had a monopoly.
Now everyone of the handling agents is competing for the work and don't the airlines know it. The handling agents cannot afford to pay the kind of wage / salary that will attract anyone slightly interested in "Ramp Safety" - if they did, they would not get the airline's signature on the contract.
The situation gets exacerbated due to the seasonal nature of the industry. Who is going to apply for a poorly paid job with prospects of redundancy every October when the summer traffic vanishes.
Herein lies the next problem and one that was very evident once The E.C. ruling came into effect: you rarely see any old faces on the ramp - that old seasoned and experienced baggage handler and tug driver has gone and its a new face every spring and with it some dire attitude that has no respect for
aeronautical safety.
Have any of you sitting up in the left hand seat ever asked the chap on the headset how much training he has had? My father sat 39 feet up and always knew there was a trained engineer overseeing the engine start up and pushback. I have seen aircraft in reverse with chaps who have only just obtained airside passes within hours. Again it is surely a matter of what you - The Airline - is prepared to pay for and its patently obvious who is prepared to shave some of the overheads!

6th Dec 2001, 17:27
It's interesting to look at this month's AAIB Bulletin and see how many incidents there are ground handling incidents.

Ignition Override
7th Dec 2001, 08:40
Let's hope that such overworked ground folks don't walk into a PROPELLER. As deadly as a guillotine during the French Revolution.

This killed a young lady working under a Metroliner in Newark (EWR) a few years ago, and to another lady in Memphis (MEM), where she walked into a Saab 340 prop: both might have involved unplugging external power cords. These tragedies might have happened at night, but props are invisible in the daytime, too.

Are they carefully trained to always walk well clear of the engines, with no exceptions allowed? Or are they always in a hurry, with on time departures most important?

8th Dec 2001, 03:49
This thread explains why baggage handlers never handle baggage. They throw it.

For some years it has amazed me that BHs treat our bags with such abandon when we are watching. I have often looked out of the window and watched the BHs transferring the bags from the trolleys to the belt loader.

They throw, sling, toss and kick when they could just as easily pick, lift and place them. I often seen my own bag being badly treated.

Now I understand that these are people who will be living on the ramp for only a short period of time and have no interest in looking after my bags.

Question: When my bag is damaged - who do I complain to? The Airline who must ultimately be responsible?

28th Feb 2002, 22:28
EDI, Tue night !. .Make that 12 times in 3 years. More money down the drain. <img src="mad.gif" border="0"> .

28th Feb 2002, 23:59
Do you think it is a requirement for ground crew to have passed their driving licenses before being allowed to tear around the ramp in v. close proximity to expensive aeroplanes?. . When I was doing my I.R. I watched a chap remove the steps from a 757 and then pull away and ram them into the tailplane! The a/c was u/s for nearly 4 days after if I remember correctly. EXPENSIVE mistake. Also a friend told me rescently of an incident where some steps were speared into the rear fuz of the BAe146 he was flying damaging the APU exhaust! Minor incidents with expensive results.

1st Mar 2002, 00:40
I'd just completed the transit check and was driving back to the office when over the radio I heard the aircraft reg being mentioned, so returned, to find a set of canopied steps had reversed of the aft pax door and proceeded to reverse to a position on the other side, awaiting an inbound aircraft on the next stand. In doing so managed to remove a triangular corner piece of the RH stabilizer T/E tip, 10 inches x 10 inches, which had plumeted to the ground. Long down time for the manufacturer to make the parts.

1st Mar 2002, 03:45
As a past ground staff for a regional airline and a commercial pilot I will tell you the reason why these incidents of aircraft being damaged on the ground occur. It is because the airline hire these twits directly off the streets with no aviation background whatsoever. As a pilot myself I took a great deal of care in preparing an aircraft for departure.. .Some of the things I saw on the tarmac would give you nightmares!. .people nearly walking straight into props, aircraft moving out from the bay with tail stand still hooked on, driving GPU away without disconnecting first, driving tugs into the side of aircraft! The worst sight I saw was a CRJ-200 try to taxi out but unable to turn as the ground staff forgot to do up the torque links!!!

1st Mar 2002, 06:49
So, our Bent Banana767 is out of service for three and a half months for repairs costing almost US$2.5 million and the insurance doesn't cover the loss of service. The tug driver who hit it is claiming compensation for shock, distress and loss of earnings. The tug itself was tested and found to be serviceable. Presumably its Boeing's fault for making the landing gears too short.

If no-one is making any money, neither Airline, nor Handling Agency nor Employees, and Passengers don't want to pay more for their travel, what exactly is the answer?

**********************************. .Through difficulties to the cinema

Flight Detent
1st Mar 2002, 10:02
Hi all,. .Yeh, 'V1rotate & Woodman', I consider Madrid apron as by far the most dangerous I have ever operated from, the FE has to watch out (even with hi-viz jacket!), for vehicles driving between the engines on our 747s, and not slowly!. .It seems to be taken as 'normal' there.. .Watch out.


Few Cloudy
1st Mar 2002, 12:26
KwikFix, happened to me on an MD-80 at ZRH (where the cable was attached to the jetty). They pulled back the jetty and I saw the cable get very taut -shouted through the open window but by the time he got it stopped, all the pins were bent. Anno - 1998 I think.

Confirmed Must Ride
1st Mar 2002, 14:22
Hey guys, alot has been said of handlers on this thread but I can assure you not all are the same. I regulary audit our stations for ramp safety and procedures and have to say I have been very impressed by the overall professionalism. It is true, however, that all handlers must complete our own airlines training before coming near our aircraft, that is on top of their own companies training.