Forum takes a ground-up view of safety

Ground handling of a Qantas Boeing 737-838 at Melbourne Airport | CASA

Ground handling, an essential but often overlooked area of aviation safety, took centre stage at the Ground Operations Safety Advisory Forum (GO-SAFE) held at CASA’s Melbourne office on 10–11 July.

The event, convened by CASA Ground Operations Inspector, Tim Meagher, brought together ground handling managers from airlines, service providers, airports and CASA, who found there was no shortage of issues to be tackled and ways in which the industry could become more efficient, and potentially safer.

The chief operating officer of ground handling agent Swissport (formerly Aerocare), Rob D’Alessio, told the forum of a survey that had discovered 45 chocking and coning methods being used to cover just three common aircraft types. (Wheel chocks are used to secure the aircraft while parked, and cones denote areas that service vehicles must not enter, to prevent ground damage.) The most elaborate methods were ‘like decorating a Christmas tree,’ he said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has one recommended coning and chocking configuration for all twin-engine aircraft. Multiple variations, while not necessarily unsafe in themselves, caused mental load and possibly confusion among ground handling staff who often had to remember different protocols for different customers.

The forum held a standardisation workshop, which established three areas where greater coordination could easily be achieved and has established working groups to follow these up.

Several participants in the forum acknowledged the ongoing tension between on-time performance requirements and the equal requirement to complete tasks thoroughly and in a safe manner. The need for thorough root cause investigation of incidents and accidents emerged as another area that would bring strong safety benefits.

Vehicle operations standards and training requirements varied among airports, which often created a barrier to easy and safe temporary transfers of ground staff.

Other topics explored included human factors training in ground operations and loading, human factors, drug and alcohol management plans (DAMP), and freight loading.

The next GO-SAFE forum will be held in November in Sydney. People or organisations interested in attending can contact


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