Airside Driving

The latest developments in ground handling vehicles undoubtedly make the workplace safer and more productive.

Continually fine-tuning these rules and regulations is a full-time job, especially with ongoing construction and maintanence operations and airline movement modifications on the apron that constantly change the chessboard. For example, it is not uncommon for low cost carriers to park the aircraft away from an aerobridge, making pedestrian passengers an additional driving hazard.

Many of these same carriers will elect to park and depart under power rather than on a tug. When this occurs, normal driving patterns and typical access areas have to be changed, thus creating longer delays in holding to allow for aircraft movements.

The level of concentration required and the pressure to meet deadlines is an ever increasing fact of life for the airside driving community. Management often overlooks the fact that driving is just one part of the job. Once out from behind the wheel, the operator has to refocus on the primary task, whether it be catering, refueling, cargo handling, line maintenance, towing aircraft, delivering passengers or positioning equipment. Once these tasks are accomplished, it’s necessary to switch back to being a driver again, with all the responsibilities that entails.

Slowly issues like speed limits, clearance distances, and roadworthy equipment are becoming more uniform around the world. Local public regulations such as mandatory use of seat belts have been included into many company rule books. GSE manufacturers all have to take these local regulations into account when taking orders. Making sure a new vehicle complies with emission standards, vehicle lighting regulations and placement of rotating beacons all need to be addressed.

Airside driving requires comprehensive training and a heightened driving awareness much greater than anything experienced out there on the public road system. Passengers stand at the terminal window and watch in awe as the turnaround traffic weave and dart around the apron. Impressive how it all comes together; it’s a demonstration of teamwork in rain, hail or shine — day or night.

As one very experienced trainer summed up his years of experience, “All the training in the world will not change the attitude of an aggressive or careless driver. Someone who is a good driver out there on public roads will bring those qualities to the apron. I always look out the window to see how the rookies in my class arrive in the parking lot — it tells me heaps about attitude.”

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