How To Avoid Distractions On The Ramp Using The '3 Cs & A NO' Approach

By focusing on a few important elements of behavior, such as our visual, manual and mental performance, aircraft damages and employee injuries can be prevented.

Distractions have always been a serious hazard for anyone operating an automobile out on our public roads and highways, but it is also a serious concern that needs to be equally managed for employees working in the fast-paced environment at any airport.

Distractions that the driving public experiences are similar to the common distractions that GSE employees will experience while out on the ramp, in aircraft repair hangars, or driving around the airport on roadways in the Aircraft Operations Area.

Similar to operating their own motor vehicle, GSE employees face three main types of distractions;

  • Visual – Distractions that take their eyes off the road.
  • Manual – Distractions that take their hands off the steering wheel.
  • Mental/Cognitive – Distractions that take their minds off what they are doing or away from tasks.

Just like on the public roadways and highways, common distractions in the AOA are talking/texting on cell phones or listening to music with headphones/ear buds, which is strictly prohibited in the AOA.

By focusing on a few important elements of behavior, however, such as our manual, visual, and mental performance, aircraft damages and employee injuries can be prevented.

It is also worth noting that ground support equipment is used not just for getting from one part of the airport to another. GSE comes in various shapes and sizes and performs different functions essential to aircraft ground operations.

That variety of ground support equipment will have its unique qualities when it comes to handling, clearance heights and specific job function. Operators of such equipment must be cognizant of the differences in controls, attachments and safety features of each type of GSE.

Working in an airport environment is filled with many distractions especially when driving on the ramp. Airport employees can drive on public roads and highways comfortably without any incidents, but often times lose focus while driving in the distraction-filled airport environment resulting in aircraft damage or employee injury.

Aircraft damages related to distractions and loss of situational awareness cause unnecessary disruptions to flight schedules, which can be an inconvenience to airlines’ loyal customer base.

It is important not to underestimate distractions as one of the sources of errors. By reducing errors, such as being distracted and taking shortcuts, risks for airline employees will be reduced and a negative effect on the operation can be eliminated.

One common method for mentally organizing driving tasks of GSE (as well as your personal vehicle) is recognizing five important driving elements we refer to as “3 Cs & a NO.”



The most important technique of defensive driving is communication with other drivers or pedestrians in the airport ramp environment.

There is no better form of communication than to establish eye contact with other operators reducing the threat of an incident while driving GSE. The mutual recognition of each other’s presence should be acknowledged and an agreement with a gesture or hand signal as to what each plans to do will avoid any incident.

The purpose of observation is to see; the purpose of communication is to be seen, in other words, recognized and understood. Distractions by hand-held devices, such as cell phones and personal music players, limit the driver’s attention that is needed for effective communication.



Another defensive driving technique is coordinating your speed and direction of movement with that of the other vehicles on the ramp.

Good coordination depends upon knowing the clearances, turning radiuses, braking capabilities and other operating characteristics of the specific piece of equipment you are operating.

It means controlled speed, following at a safe distance and the willingness to yield the right of way to other drivers, if there has been a breakdown in communication or a lack of observation or distraction on the part of the other driver.



This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend

  • Article
    Driving on the Airport

    Driving on the Airport

  • Article

    Safety On The Ground

    For the ground support worker, safety first is the required mantra for a competitive industry writes Jim Romeo May 2004 It was early evening on September 12, 2003 at the Norfolk...

  • Article

    AOA Expo Report

    Highlights from the AOA Expo.

  • Article

    Product Profile — AOA

    The following product descriptions are offered as a service to readers and are not intended as an endorsement. To obtain more information on any item listed, contact the manufacturer or visit...