Avoiding Aircraft Ground Collisions

Avoiding aircraft ground collisions is something all airline employees are concerned with. It is something we must contemplate for all aircraft movements and there is a simple trick you can use as a simple peace of mind.

On bright sunny days, shadows of all objects can be clearly seen on the ground. When marshaling an aircraft to a parking position, if there are clearly visible shadows, use them as a guide to avoid potential collisions. When shadows are clearly visible on the ground and when you have two separate shadows closing in on each other; STOP before the shadows touch. If the shadows are allowed to touch, you’ll either have a collision or have equipment overlapping over the other equipment. Either way, STOP before the shadows connect with each other.

This does not dismiss the need for wing walkers or any other safety procedures already in place depicted by your company policies. The shadows on the ground help provide a piece of mind for the aircraft marshaller. Using shadows to determine if a collision is imminent is not restricted to aircraft marshallers.

Avoiding Aircraft Ground Collisions
The shadows on the ground accurately depict the distance between the two aircraft wing tips.

Aircraft pushback drivers can also use the shadows to avoid ground collisions. I used the shadows (as well as wing walkers) to confirm I was avoiding any potential ground collision when pushing CRJ200s out of the A-Gates at Washington Dulles International Airport. It involved several directional turns and avoiding other aircraft parked in close proximity to the aircraft being pushed back.

When taxing General Aviation aircraft around the airport, I also use shadows to determine if I am getting too close to the aircraft parked next to my desired parking spot or when pulling up to the self service fuel pump. Remember those self service fuel pump hoses are very long for a reason; don’t get too close. It has saved me many times in the past and will continue to do so.

There are limitations to relying on shadows on the ground for collisions avoidance. Firstly, this only works during the day when the sun is shinning. If it is an overcast day, there are not likely to be any distinctive shadows on the ground. Secondly, this obviously does not work at night. No sun, no shadows; goes without saying really. This is why traditional collision avoidance procedures such as wing walkers are still required. The shadows simply provide an additional peace of mind for ground collision avoidance; when they they can be clearly seen.

I hope you have gained something from this video and thank you for watching. If you have any questions; feel free to e-mail me. Thank you.

Ashley Wincer

An Indianapolis based Australian working towards building flight time to meet the US ATP requirements. Currently works full time as a contractor for multiple Part 121 US Airlines. Previously has worked as a US Flight Dispatcher, Ramp Agent and Operations Ramp Controller.

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