Re: ground control hand signals?

From: (Steven G. Thomson)
Organization: Internet 1st, Inc.
Date:         04 Dec 95 01:14:59 
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Michael Mills <> wrote:

>could someone who is familiar with the hand/light signals of an airport
>ground controller (on foot, guiding planes into gates and such) give me
>a few basic patterns (right,left,stop,etc.)?  thanks for any/all advice.

I worked for Southwest on the ramp for a short period of time. We were
trained in all aspects of ground handling and ramp operations, so that
any ramp agent could perform any function to keep things moving. When
an aircraft was approaching the gate area, I would stand on the
centerline and move my arms up and down as it captured the centerline
and if it continued to track on it. If the nosewheel was off to the
right, I would point in that direction with my arm. As the nosewheel
approached the stop line for the type of aircraft, I would move my
arms up over my head and touch both hands together as the nosewheel
touched the line. I would then touch both thumbs together over my
head, as the chocks were placed around the nosewheel.

My favorite was driving the pushback tug. The first time I attempted
this, I got confused on which way to steer to get the tail where I
wanted it. I had that 737 all over the ramp, before I finally got it
right. Talk about embarassed! The Captain realized it was my first
time, and gave me a cheerful thumbs up, as well as words of
encouragement passed on through the agent on the headset. Their
attitude was typical of Southwest. After a couple more pushbacks, I
got real good at it.

One afternoon, I showed up for work, and there was a huge swarm of
bees around the gate I was working. Evidently a queen bee was
attempting to find a place to stay and attached herself to the side of
a fuel truck. Some of the bees stayed with her, and clung to the side
of it like a big inverted cone.

It was OK, until the fuel truck departed. Then a huge swarm of bees
started flying around in a cloud near where the truck had been parked
at the jetway. A 737 had landed and was bound for that gate. Nobody
wanted to go up there and marshall him in. Since I was the junior guy,
I was elected to do it. I hate bees. They terrify me.

I had to stand on top of the tug and guide this aircraft in, with all
these bees flying around me.

When the aircraft was ready to pushback, I was on the headset, walking
back with the aircraft. It was OK at first, but as we pushed back the
bees came back and started swarming around me. I couldn't go anywhere,
and my mind raced. It was a 737-300, with the big fans, so I grabbed
the mike and said "clear to start two". Usually we start number one,
as the aircraft clears the jetway, and the pilot seemed a little
puzzled, but number two started to spin.

As that big fan picked up speed, the swarm of bees were sucked into it
like a big vacuum cleaner.

I have lots of other tales, but I won't bore you with them here. Just
let me say, I have a huge respect for ramp agents after that job!

Steven Thomson
St. Louis, Missouri - Gateway To The West