Pressures on the Ramp

Ramping Up Ramp Safety

April 2004

Karen ReinhardtAs many of you know, the first week in February 2004, members of NATA's Airline Services Council met in Washington, D.C. with the OSHA Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs to form an alliance to address the health and safety needs of personnel working on the Airport Operations Area (AOA.) Besides taking a look at inclement and severe weather hazards, the alliance addressed safety issues such as vehicular traffic and congestion and is aiming to launch a formal execution of the alliance at the NATA Annual Convention in Las Vegas in May.

Ramp Safety has long been a source of concern and as NTSB board member John Goglia stated at the 2004 Jet Fuel Conference, is an area that has been overlooked in the US. He pointed out, "In the rest of the world the words safety and security are the same. We [the US] treat them differently."

It seems that finally, a number of prominent individuals and organizations in the industry believe it can no longer be looked at as "the cost of doing business." In his presentation on "Ground Accident Prevention," Robert Vandel, Executive Vice President of Flight Safety Foundation claimed that it was time to debunk this view and begin to focus on solutions, which need to be data driven, systematic and have a positive cost/benefits ratio.

Yep, that's me on the ramp in the tug! Nope, for safety reasons, they would not let me turn the key! Yep, that's me on the ramp in the tug! Nope, for safety reasons, they would not let me turn the key!

In fact, the 6th Annual International Jet Fuel Conference was retitled this year (Jet Fuel/Airport Operations Conference) to reflect the renewed interest in taking a comprehensive look at Ramp Operations Safety and Outsourcing. Conference host, John Armbrust outlined the issues affecting airlines vs. airports and essentially declared that the old airline business model is dead. "Airlines are looking to outsource as much as they can, to 3rd party operators whose costs are much lower," said Armbrust. He mentioned a number of possible consequences resulting from "pressures on the ramp" due to outsourcing including increased incidents, high employee turnover, poor training and ramp congestion. With this in mind, airports are considering not only getting into the jet fuel business but other ramp activity as well. "The airlines have resisted this," said Armbrust, "but if it's working inside the terminal why can't it work outside the terminal on the ramp?"

The bottom line regarding ramp operations is that it will never be "business as usual" again. And though it is changing the way airlines and airports do business, many issues have already changed and will continue to change the individual lives of the workers on the ramp. It seems that layoffs, reduced wage and benefit negotiations and stringent security will be a part of everyday life.

Thanks for reading.

Karen Reinhardt