The Flight Safety Foundation estimates that ramp accidents cost airlines around $10 billion each year. So, what contributes to this cost? And how can airside operations reduce the risk of ground handling incidents?

The cost of aircraft damage

It’s estimated that damage to aircraft occurs roughly once every 1000 flights. If an aircraft is damaged on the ramp, it is approximated that it will be unavailable for 3-4 days incurring an average cost of $225,000 per aircraft.

This contributes to the $5 billion per year that airlines spend on aircraft repair, downtime and delay costs, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

Addressing the causes of aircraft damage

There are many ways that aircraft can be damaged during ground handling. The five equipment types that most commonly cause damage to aircraft on the ramp are ULDs (unit load devices), pedestrian steps, cargo loaders, belt loaders and pushback tractors (according to IATA’s Ground Damage Database 2017).

The Flight Safety Foundation’s research has shown that human error is involved in most airside accidents. This highlights the importance of standardized training for ground support operatives, both in terms of general health and safety and for operating specific equipment.

RTITB Airside can train ground handling equipment Instructors to deliver courses on all different airfield equipment types. Ground support equipment operator training course material is also available from RTITB Airside for use by in-house training teams.

Undetected aircraft damage

Worryingly, a high proportion of damage is reported on arrival, meaning that damage that occurred to the aircraft during its previous turnaround went unreported.

As the composite materials used in many modern aircraft make it difficult to see some types of damage on the exterior of the aircraft during inspection, training is vital to detect these issues and improve safety.

It is also important for ground handling employers to create an open culture that encourages operatives to report damage or any concerns around safety, allowing improvements to be made.

The human cost of airside accidents

Previously, accident cost figures from the Flight Safety Foundation did not take injury costs into account.  However, as personal injury occurs once every 100 flights it is important to remember the human cost of airside accidents. In fact, the Flight Safety Federation estimates that this costs airlines approximately $4 billion per year.

How can ramp accidents be prevented?

While it is vitally important, training on its own is not usually enough to prevent all the causes of damage and accidents on the ramp.  Instead, ground handling employers need to analyze and audit the whole situation. This enables operations to identify the processes, technologies and training that can come together to increase safety and efficiency in airports.

To support employers with this, the RTITB Airside HealthCheck is a thorough audit of ground support equipment operations. Trained auditors with global and local knowledge can come on site to help identify where any improvements can be made and provide consultancy and guidance on the next steps to take.

Contact your regional manager to learn more.