Across the whole aviation spectrum, there can be found a large number of organizations whose time and energy are devoted to improving and enhancing the vital element of safety within the industry. As to be expected, the majority of them have a pure focus on flight safety, for it is this issue which is constantly being raised by the world’s general news media, thus thrusting it into the public arena. Unfortunately, the news media pay very little attention to, and appear to have a sparse knowledge of, the other side of the aviation safety coin, namely the hazards associated with the activities performed on the ground at every airport.
That side of the coin can carry a variety of names: ground safety, ramp safety, airside safety being typical examples. But regardless of its calling, the simple fact is that, as with all safety matters, unless it is managed properly, the outcome will be accidents and incidents, which have a costly effect both in human and productivity terms.
A Community of Safety
Airside activities are conducted by people from a variety of companies including airlines, aircraft handlers, caterers, airport companies, maintenance organizations, fuel companies, cargo operators, couriers, law enforcement agencies, and so on. Each of them has their own set of operating policies and procedures, which must dove-tail into the overall requirements of the state (federal or local) regularity authority. But also, within reason, the operating procedures of all organizations need to be in tune with those of others with whom they are required to interact while carrying out their airside tasks. It is, therefore, very important that the line management and the staff of these operating companies work very closely together as a community to ensure safety standards and parameters are established, audited, and maintained. Overseeing these matters is where the respective company safety personnel have their part to play.
Having established good working relationships within each airport, the next step is to broaden the horizons within manageable geographic regions by making contact with people performing similar tasks at other airports. All it needs is for someone to take the initiative to communicate with his or her peers. The AAGSC started in just that way.
Evolution of AAGSC
For some time, the ground safety officers of Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) and Air New Zealand discussed various aspects of their day-to-day work in the hope of finding and exchanging safer operating procedures. This was in the early 1980s, when communication was best achieved by letter, telex, and the relatively new fax method. Eventually, a personal meeting was arranged and, while the two airlines had very little in common in respect to aircraft types operated, it was apparent that such cooperation was valuable and should be encouraged. As a result, it was decided to approach other airlines to form a group with whom to benchmark and create a working network.
A precedent for this had already been set up by the establishment of the Australasian Airline Flight Safety Council (AAFSC) and was, therefore, quite readily accepted and agreed upon by the management of the four airlines involved. In addition to TAA and Air NZ, Qantas Airways and Ansett-ANA had also been recruited and this led to the first meeting of ground safety personnel from all the carriers in March 1982 and the forming of the AAGSC.
One of the first things the council had to address was the scope of its activities. Ground safety covers a plethora of wide-ranging subjects, and it was agreed to limit the council’s activities to those areas outside the hangars, thus placing its focus on the airport ramp and terminal operations.
From there, the next recruits were the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Both had already joined the AAFSC and their involvement with the AAGSC was simply a logical extension of that.
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