The airport ramp refers to the areas within the airport grounds where various types of aircraft are loaded, unloaded, boarded, parked, refueled, or maintained. Airport ramps contain most areas around the airport, including areas near to the commercial airport terminal and in areas that service general aviation, fixed-base operators (FBOs), shipping companies and in some airports, aircraft storage hangers.
Airport ramps are multidimensional workplaces with various forms of traffic traveling nonstop in all directions. Almost every aircraft movement requires some kind of ground support. Everything from fueling, catering, push backs, and aircraft maintenance to cargo, deicing, and baggage loading and unloading require coordinated ground movement on the ramp between many different airport entities.
Ground operations are essential to allow aircraft to be serviced appropriately for flight. Yet, a majority of the aviation industry’s loss and expenses are from incidents and accidents that occur during ground operations. Turnaround times for commercial airlines are often very short which means ground crews must work quickly and understand procedures and potential hazards to avoid an unsafe situation. The environment is quite complex and fast-paced giving an opportunity for human errors to undermine safety.
Ramp safety is crucial and fundamental to successful airport operations. A lot of activity happens within the finite space of the airport ramp, and among the flurry of activities, there is the tendency for negligence to lead to safety issues for the aircraft, as well as anyone working on and around the ramp.
Airport ramps tend to be quite hazardous for a variety of reasons, the most notable being ramp congestion, time pressures during aircraft turnaround, and lack of standardization between airlines and other airport entities.
Aviation safety is important as airlines are aiming to have zero incidents and accidents, and the airport ramp is one place that is susceptible to various types of risks, and as such, the risks should be mitigated as effectively as possible, and all safety rules, regulations and standards need to be adhered to.
It does not matter whether it is the commercial airlines, general aviation or fixed-base operators, it is important that everything connected with the operations of aircraft is maintained to the highest safety standards.
Many of the aviation authorities and agencies have come up with the rules, regulations and safety standards that are intended to direct the operations occurring on the ramp. There are different rules for both loaded and unloaded aircraft, and mitigating risks means paying attention to every detail contained within the rules and regulations that guide ramp operations.
The rules and procedures guide the ramp operations for tasks such as vehicle operations including all licensing and permit requirements, rules and designation of restricted areas, fueling and other servicing procedures, waste and lavatory collection and disposal, and overall airport emergency procedures. At most major airports, ground operations both in the commercial and general aviation areas are regularly audited to reveal any discrepancies or weaknesses in the procedures.
Clear communication and observing airport signage and procedures are basic important rules to follow while conducting ramp operations. Along with proper training, adequate supervision and using the best equipment possible, safety requirements can be regularly maintained.
However, human errors still have the potential to leak through the cracks. Most ramp accidents have been as a result of negligence, carelessness, and inadequate communication and these rules seek to address those flaws and make the airport ramp as safe as possible.
There are penalties for violating any of the rules and regulations and these penalties vary depending on the severity of the violation. Penalties that are enforced for those who behave recklessly while working on the ramp could involve losing a license or certification, being fined thousands of dollars and could also involve law enforcement agents to step in which could lead to being sentenced to prison for putting public safety at risk.