Military and non-military flight lines comparison

Flight Line Ground Safety

General Safety of a Flight Line

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Driving Safety on a Flight Line

Day and evening driving

Towing aircraft

Personnel working around:

Engines and aircraft

Working at night and safety equipment needed

Hazardous equipment

Personal Safety Equipment

Hazards in and around the flight line

Maintenance Standards

Differences between military and non-military flight lines

Flight Line Ground Safety

Aircraft ground safety is of utmost importance in any type of organization that deals with the handling of aircraft and aircraft operations. An organization that is involved in the handling of aircraft and a flight line, an aircraft parking ramp, is required to follow certain federal standards and/or guidelines. Many airline ground operations employees may be unaware of the potential hazards in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to injury, as compared to others. This goal of this paper is to aid in recognizing and controlling hazards, which may be present on a flight line in the airline industry.

Airline industries and the military must follow certain standard safety guidelines, as set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Air Force Occupational Safety and Health (AFOSH) as well as other standards that are in place. The goal of OSHA is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training outreach and education; establishing partnerships and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health (OSHA, 2005). The FAA oversees the safety of civil aviation. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created the agency under the name Federal Aviation Agency. The present name was adopted in 1967, when the FAA became a part of the Department of Transportation (FAA, 2005). The Air Force Occupational Safety and Health (AFOSH) standards are in place in order to develop and maintain current ground safety standards, in regards to safety and health.

There are exceptions in certain instances, in regards to the military, where the military must follow these guidelines; however, some equipment, systems, and operations are “uniquely military” (OSHA definitions, 2005). This means that they are unique to the national defense mission, such as military aircraft, ships, submarines, missiles, and missile sites, early warning systems, military space systems, artillery, tanks, and tactical vehicles; and excludes operations that are uniquely military as well, such as, field maneuvers, naval operations, military flight operations, associated research test and development activities, and actions required under emergency conditions (OSHA definitions, 2005). Aside from these exceptions, generally safety standards are in place and must be followed.

In the following paragraphs you will find information on general safety of a flight line, driving safety on a flight line, personal safety in working around engines and aircraft, working at night and around hazardous equipment, personal safety equipment (PSE), hazards in and around the flight line, maintenance standards, and differences between military and non-military flight lines.

First of all, those involved in the handling of aircraft and aircraft flight line operations are required to follow general standards or guidelines. Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970, often referred to as the General duty clause, requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to “comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act” (OSHA standards, 2005). In addition, each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions conducted (OSHA Act of 1978, 2005).

The airline industry must comply with all General Industry standards (29 CFR 1910). Of those the most frequently cited by Federal OSHA during October 2003 through September 2004 were powered industrial trucks, general requirements for all machines, maintenance safeguards, and operational features for exit routes, wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use, portable fire extinguishers, abrasive wheel machinery, blood borne pathogens, design and construction requirements for exit routes, and overhead and gantry cranes.

Another general safety factor that airline industries must comply with is certifications. Under the FAA standards, Part 139, certifications and operations of land airports servicing certain air carriers is required. Specific areas of interest for the airline industry, in regards to certifications, are the handling and storing of hazardous substances and materials and ground vehicle operations. Part 139 also requires the FAA to issue airport operating certificates to airports that serve scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats or that the FAA Administrator requires a certificate (OSHA standards, 2005).

In general, if working on the flight line, general safety guidelines must be kept in mind when working with baggage, carts, belt loaders, cargo bins, loading bridges, and around aircraft, to name a few. In addition, employees must take extra care in wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and in becoming educated in noise and hearing loss prevention (OSHA measuring exposure, 2005). One example of a safety issue is the handling of (baggage) carts. Potential hazards could be:

Manually positioning baggage carts (sometimes weighing over 1,000 pounds) may require pushing and pulling forces.

Parking carts too close to the belt loader can lead to repeated lifting while twisting. Ramp agents may tend to lift and twist instead of moving their feet when a cart is too close to the belt loader.

Parking carts too far from the belt loader forces agents to repeatedly carry heavy bags over extended distances. This can be especially hazardous under wet or icy conditions.

Potential solutions are:

Educate agents about proper lifting techniques to increase awareness of good work practices.

Perform stretching exercises that help loosen and relax the muscles and joints.

Position carts at least three feet from belt loaders to encourage agents to pick up bags from carts and turn, instead of twist, to take bags to belt holders.

Heavily loaded carts should not be moved manually.

Appropriately designed and installed handles on carts or tongue and tow bar can facilitate pushing and pulling tasks (OSHA baggage handling, 2005).

All general flight line safety procedures can be viewed in this way. Supervisors and employees can work together in order to ensure proper safety procedures are implemented while in the workplace.

Employees must keep in mind and comply with proper driving safety procedures when working on a flight line. Employees may drive such vehicles as forklifts, golf carts, k-loaders (used to load and unload cargo), hi-lift trucks, etc. General safety procedures for driving in and around the flight line, day or night, are: stay within rated capacity, never travel with a load lifted too high, do not raise or lower a load while traveling, watch blind corners (signal with horn), proceed slowly and cautiously around corners, use lower gear when going down ramps, avoid sudden stops, watch overhead clearances, lower heavy loads slowly, keep clear of loading dock edges, ensure brakes are set when needed, do not exceed more than 5 miles per hour around aircraft, check foot brakes and handbrakes for effective operation, have adequate lighting (depending on the time of day), have a fire extinguisher on the vehicle, and never leave a vehicle unattended while an engine is running (AFOSH, 2003). When towing aircraft or aircraft equipment, it is important to keep in mind avoiding placing oneself in the direct path of the aircraft, to be clear of who is authorized to say “all clear to move,” to at night use luminous wands, and ensure proper distances between other employees (AFOSH, 2003). These safety guidelines are important to keep in mind when handling vehicles on the flight line. Following these procedures will help to ensure proper safety procedures and prevent accidents on the grounds of the flight line.

A number of personnel may find themselves in direct contact with engines and aircraft on a normal basis while on the job. If this is the case, it is important to practice certain safety procedures. When fueling jet aircraft, it is important to practice the utmost safety as the jet fuel can cause health hazards. For example, carbon monoxide could be present, which is a colorless, odorless gas which limits the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues.

For example, there was one case in which the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) learned that two workers had died in or near their refueling vehicles. Although carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning was not suspected at the time of the deaths, a combination of the unusual location of the engine exhaust (under the front bumper), the deterioration of rubber seals around the gear shift levers and the pedals, and the fact that the workers spend a considerable amount of time sitting in idling vehicles led the institute to measure CO levels in the truck cabs. Dangerous concentrations of CO were found. The company involved instituted maintenance procedures and work practice rules requiring that the windows be kept open whenever the truck is occupied. However, recent spot checks suggest that many operators are unaware of the risk and therefore have not taken precautions to prevent dangerous concentrations of CO (NIOSH, 1984). This could prove to be fatal.

When employees are around aircraft it is important to practice the utmost safety, in order to ensure the safety of the ground crew, the people are on board of the aircraft, and all other employees involved in the handling of the flight line. Individuals must watch and listen for newly arriving or passing aircraft. If driving, employees must keep a proper distance from the aircraft and drive slowly, at 5 miles per hour only (AFOSH, 2003). Caution must also be taken with forklifts and k-loaders, as they must be lowered while aircraft is moving.

When working at night and around hazardous equipment, employees must utilize luminous wands, practice safe driving techniques, as those mentioned above, and use proper safety precautions when around hazardous materials. Many airline workers may be unaware of the potential hazards in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to injury. Hazards to keep in mind that can become safety risks are those such as: baggage handling, controlling carbon dioxide levels, electrocution, vehicle injuries, ramp operation incidents, disruptive passengers, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), to name a few (OSHA hazards and solutions, 2005).

Baggage handling can cause back injuries. Many times employees lift heavy baggage, which can eventually take its toll on airline workers. In addition, electrocution can occur on the flight line. For example, one man got electrocuted while he repaired airport runway lights. He was a 54-year-old certified electrician of an electrical contracting company. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a corona virus, called SARS-associated corona virus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in 2003. Over the next few months the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained (CDC, 2005). This disease is important for airline employees to become aware of and to learn proper safety measures to assist in avoiding such a disease from occurring, as it can be fatal.

Personal Safety Equipment (PSE) are very important to use when on the flight line. For example, employees working on a flight line normally, use goggles, for eye protection, if needed, they wear ear pieces or headphones to block the harmful loud noises planes can cause; in some instances, depending on the job position they have, they may use a mask or ventilator to protect themselves from inhaling fumes of fuel or oil.

Maintenance standards are important to maintain around the flight line and when aircraft are present or arriving. For example, exit routes must be maintained and kept free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings or decorations. There should be safeguards in place designed to protect employees during an emergency (e.g. sprinkler systems, alarm systems, fire doors, exit lighting) and they must be in proper working order at all times (OSHA maintenance, 2005).

There are some differences in regards to military and non-military flight line standards; however not many. The military do follow OSHA and FAA standards; however, there are some exceptions as mentioned earlier, when in certain instances, some equipment, systems, and operations are “uniquely military” (OSHA definitions, 2005). This means that they are unique to the national defense mission, such as military aircraft, ships, submarines, missiles, and missile sites, early warning systems, military space systems, artillery, tanks, and tactical vehicles; and excludes operations that are uniquely military as well, such as, field maneuvers, naval operations, military flight operations, associated research test and development activities, and actions required under emergency conditions (OSHA definitions, 2005). In addition to these the Air Force has a unique set of standards, which are the Air Force Safety Standards 91-100.

In conclusion, aircraft flight line safety procedures are important to an organization in the airline industry. Employers and employees, alike, must learn and implement the proper safety procedures in their particular workplace, so as to ensure proper safety procedures and to avoid any potential hazardous problems that may occur. Many employees working the flight line may be unaware of potential problems that could occur in their work environment. This is why education and implementation of these safety procedures and potential hazards are vital to the health and safety of employees and of those in and around their work environment. By educating, implementing, and practicing these safety procedures, airline employees are able to live a safe and healthy life.


AFOSH, Std 91-100 (2003). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from AFOSH Web site:

CDC (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from CDC Web site:

FAA (2005). Retrieved June 19, 2005, from FAA Web site:

NIOSH: Controlling carbon monoxide hazard in aircraft refueling operations (1984). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from NIOSH Web site:

OSHA (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHA Web site:

OSHA Act of 1978, (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHA Web site:

OSHA baggage handling (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHS Web site:

OSHA definitions, 1960.2(i), (2005). Retrieved June 19, 2005, from OSHA Web site:

OSHA hazards and solutions (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHA Web site:

OSHA measuring exposure (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHA Web site:

OSHA maintenance (2005). Retrieved June 20, 2005, from OSHS Web site:

OSHA standards, Section 5(a)(1) and Section 5(a)(2) (2005). Retrieved June 20, from OSHA Web site:

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