The airport ramp can be a complex environment with airport personnel, passengers, trucks and other vehicles, airplanes, helicopters, and errant animals. The pilot is responsible for the operation of their airplane and must operate safely at all times. Ground operations provide unique hazards, and mitigating those hazards requires proper planning and situational awareness at all times in the ground environment.
A fundamental ground operation mitigation tactic is for the pilot to always have reviewed the airport diagram prior to operating and have it readily available at all times. Whether departing to or from the ramp, the pilot must maintain a high level of awareness that requires preparation to maximize safety. This includes being familiar and competent with the following:
- Refueling operations
- Passenger and baggage security and loading
- Ramp and taxi operations
- Standard ramp signals
During refueling operations, it is advisable that the pilot remove all passengers from aircraft during fueling operations and witness the refueling to ensure that the correct fuel and quantity is dispensed into the airplane and that any caps and cowls are properly secured after refueling.
Passengers may have little experience with the open ramp of an airport. The pilot must ensure the safety of their passengers by only allowing them to undertake freedoms for which they have been given direction by the pilot. At no time should passengers be allowed to roam the ramp without an escort to ensure their safety and ramp security. Baggage loading and security should be directly supervised by the pilot. Unsecured baggage or improperly loaded baggage may adversely affect the center of gravity of the airplane.
Ramp traffic may vary from a deserted open space to a complex environment with heavy corporate or military aircraft. Powerful aircraft may produce an environment, from exhaust blast or rotor downwash, which could easily cause a light airplane to become uncontrollable. Mitigating these light airplane hazards is important to starting off on a safe flight.
Some ramps may be staffed by personnel to assist the pilot in managing a safe departure from the ramp to the taxiway. These personnel use standard hand signals and the pilot should be familiar with the meaning of those signals. [Figure 2-12]