TO THE LETTER
Apron jet-blast-let's be careful out there
We completed the pushback from gate X at airport Y. As the pushback was completed, "Apron" gave permission to an airliner to taxi onto the same gate. We were positioned directly in line with the lead-in line to the gate, as instructed. As the other aircraft taxied onto the gate, our ground crew and our aircraft were subjected to significant jet blast, along with blowing snow and flying debris, as the ramp had recently been treated with chemicals due to icing conditions.
We said something on the radio to Apron about this being ill-advised, but there was no meaningful response and they gave us taxi instructions toward the de-icing pad. The crew of the other aircraft never said a word. There was no attempt by the ramp crew working the other flight to stop their aircraft from entering the gate while we (and our ground crew) were sitting directly in their jet blast zone. Had they waited a minute or two, we and our ground crew would have been clear of the area.
Our attempts to address this issue with the other airline and with the airport were unsuccessful. One tried to deflect the responsibility for this incident onto the other, and the other gave no response at all. I would argue that they certainly weren't in keeping with the spirit of safety management systems (SMS).
There were opportunities to prevent this. Apron could have asked them to hold until we were clear, but even prior to that point, the pushback should never be done "straight back" behind the gate, and the aircraft should never be allowed to taxi directly in front before the departing aircraft has cleared the line. At most major airports, ground crews will be instructed to push an aircraft "around the corner" so that access to the gate is clear for the next arrival. This also prevents a situation where two aircraft are pushed back in parallel, potentially forcing one crew to blast the other aircraft as they taxi away from the ramp. I've seen this happen at this airport on several occasions. Crews should also know it is unsafe to taxi in front of another aircraft lined-up with the gate.
Finally, ground crews should be able to recognize such a developing scenario and stop it. They can cross the wands for a couple of minutes until the departing aircraft and their ground crews are no longer in the jet-blast danger zone. Let's be careful out there!
Name withheld by request
Vectors in the air, progressive taxi on the ground
I would like to clarify a comment made in the article "COPA Corner-Runway Incursions-Your Part," published in Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) /2007. In the second-last paragraph, the author suggests that "At controlled airports, you have help available-don't be afraid to ask ATC ground control for vectors to the runway or ramp to avoid ending up in the wrong place." Controllers are not permitted to provide directional guidance in the form of vector headings, even if using airport surface detection equipment (ASDE) (ATC MANOPS 307.5). They are, however, permitted to provide directional instruction (also known as progressive taxi) such as: "TURN LEFT/RIGHT AT THE NEXT TAXIWAY/RUNWAY," or "TURN LEFT/RIGHT ON TAXIWAY/RUNWAY (number) APPROXIMATELY (number) FEET AHEAD." We felt that the distinction should be made to the ASL readership.
Ann Lindeis, Ph.D.
Manager, Planning and Analysis, Safety and System
Thank you Dr. Lindeis. The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) confirmed that the intent was to let readers know that at unfamiliar or complex airports, pilots should not be afraid to ask for assistance so as to minimize runway incursions. "Progressive taxi" is a term that is better known and employed more often in the U.S. than it is in Canada, so the author probably wanted to use another term that better described the intent. -Ed.