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Aircraft Trashed by Ground Handlers (again)

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Aircraft Trashed by Ground Handlers (again)

Old 2nd Dec 2001, 18:31
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Post Aircraft Trashed by Ground Handlers (again)

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

[ 02 December 2001: Message edited by: KwikPhix ]
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 18:57
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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.
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 19:10
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Thumbs down

Oh it is VERY widespread unfortunately.

Another "clanger":

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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 19:26
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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.
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 19:36
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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).
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 19:39
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Posts 1@2 name the offending airports
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 20:14
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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.
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 21:23
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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?
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 21:39
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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.
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Old 2nd Dec 2001, 23:01
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 00:25
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 03:29
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 04:23
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 10:40
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 11:15
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 11:30
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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.
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 11:44
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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
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 11:59
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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)

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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 13:00
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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 ]
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Old 3rd Dec 2001, 20:34
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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.
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