The flight line of an airport or airfield is the area near hangars where aircraft may be unloaded, offloaded, and serviced. As a high-level activity space that may have running aircraft, operating APUs, fuel trucks, baggage handling equipment, and other objects present, maintenance technicians and workers must be on constant alert and aware of their surroundings for the means of safety. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the common hazards associated with flight lines, allowing you to understand best practices to keep yourself and others safe.
With the constant movement and operation of vehicles, equipment, and personnel, there can be a plethora of noises emitting from every angle while in a flight line. As high decibel sounds emitted by some equipment can even cause hearing loss, it is important that all workers present wear proper hearing protection for their safety. It is also highly recommended to wear protection whenever one is operating a pneumatic drill or other loud equipment piece for similar reasons. Hearing protection can come in the form of external pieces such as earmuffs or headphones, or they may be an internal piece that is placed within the ear canal for ample protection. With all protective equipment, it is important that sound levels are reduced sufficiently for guarding sensitive eardrums.
As aircraft may be present or close to working spaces and may require various systems to be powered from time to time during servicing, workers should remain a safe distance from propeller assemblies, operating gas turbine engines, fuel, and other hazards that can present major safety risks. As a taxiing aircraft is moving, the operating pilot may not be able to see everything around them, thus workers also need to remain within a pilot’s view while conducting certain operations on a ramp or should stay a safe distance from the aircraft.
Helicopters present similar hazards, and their varied designs and construction warrant extra caution when operating on or around such vehicles. If a helicopter is powered and has spinning blades, it is important to observe the rotor head and blades to determine whether or not they are level when approaching the vehicle. Similar to fixed-wing aircraft, personnel should always remain within the line of sight of the pilot when approaching the rotorcraft, and nothing should be held up that may hit the moving blade assembly. The tail rotor of the helicopter will regularly spin at great speeds, and they can nearly be invisible to the naked eye when revolving at high RPM values. As such, one should never approach the tail end of the helicopter during its operation, and one should move around the nose-end of the rotorcraft when approaching each side.
Foreign object damage, or FOD, consists of any damage occurring to aircraft, equipment, or personnel that directly results from a loose item. Loose items can come in a large variety of forms, ranging from broken and uneven ground to a sharp tool that may be left on a ramp. Damage to the aircraft can even result from materials or other objects being drawn into a turbine engine due to the presence of low pressure-areas, thus it is paramount that flight line spaces are always kept clean and free of loose objects that present safety hazards.
As a last major consideration for safety endeavors, ample fire safety and safeguards should be maintained for the means of preventing the combustion of fuels and other flammable materials, liquids, or gases. Whether through the grounding of electrical equipment or proper fuel containment, there are numerous ways in which fire hazards can be prevented for safety. As there is always a possibility of a fire breaking out, there should always be proper equipment and plans set in place to put them out.
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