A discipline that is not common knowledge within the field of aviation circles is that of Wingwalker Marshalling. When we study the aim of this course, one identifies that it is to equip each candidate with the sufficient knowledge and skills, to safely carry out the duties of an aircraft marshaller & wing/tail walker. In addition, part of the course outcome is to be able to recognize the inherent dangers in ramp operations and plan ways to minimize them.
The syllabus for this course comprises of the following subjects:
- Aircraft Marshaller & Wing/Tail Walker responsibilities
- Working Environment & Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Foreign Objects and Debris (FOD)
- Rules of the Apron, Operational Awareness & Considerations
- Fixed Wing Marshal Signals
- Rotor Wing Marshal Signals
- Standard Emergency Signals
- Basic aircraft recognition
What is highlighted in this line up, is the Wing Walkers inability to communicate with the Pilot by means of VHF radio communication at any stage during operations. Generally, most people are familiar with the term `Marshaller`, and that it is directly related to the safe guidance of an aircraft to it`s parking bay. A Pilot in Command, PIC, is told by Apron Control via radio communication on a selected frequency, in advance, of their allocated parking bay for that Airfield.
What they are not aware of throughout this process is the environment they will be parking at in terms of who they will parking alongside to. In other words, what is the wingspan and length of these potential aircraft, how long have they been parked in their assigned parking bay, and when do they anticipate that aircraft to commence with start up procedures. The arriving PIC is also, as an example, not aware of any possible baggage handlers plus tugs, refuelling or catering trucks that may be attending to any of the aircraft alongside their allocated *stand, at any stage, during their imminent parking bay procedures.
Along comes the Wingwalker Marshaller, trained to utilise all their senses in communicating with the pilot by using marshalling signals that will ensure the parking aircraft, or aircraft currently being pushed back out of their allocated parking bay, are kept safe from those potential obstacles alongside it throughout this process.
This requires focus and attention to detail, as the signals they use throughout this process are all in support of a guaranteed safe operation. Something to consider however is would it help if they had access to a VHF radio and were able to speak directly to the PIC while busy with these parking bay procedures, just like the engineer does on the ground for example when the scheduled aircraft has started their engines in the parking bay and, prior to the aircraft commencing with their pushback procedures?
Could voice communication between Wingwalker Marshaller and PIC increase the safety mechanism of such an operation?
A list of Pro`s and Con`s follow in this respect for each:
Wingwalker Marshalling Procedures: (Published)
- Proven to be 95% successful in application
- Guidelines are listed for reference purposes globally
- Errors still occur in realtime resulting in potential incidents/accidents
- Not always able to get the PIC attention in real time due to human error
Wingwalker Marshalling Procedures: (Proposed)
- Realtime communication with the PIC
- Can pre-plan with the PIC in advance
- Possible interference on the frequency being used due to multiple transmissions at once between Wingwalker Marshallers and PIC
- Procedures have not been developed, published or tested
As can be determined from this brief outline above, there is no guaranteed process to ensure 100 percent safety outcome during related operations. The possibility of combining the two modes and using them simultaneously during related operations could be considered as a remedy solution. Send us your thoughts if you would like to add any value to this discussion to firstname.lastname@example.org
*stand – a term used in Aviation that also refers to a parking bay.
- Dylan Kemlo