Ramp Safety





According to the Flight Safety Foundation-

  • Approximately 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents — one per 1,000 departures — occur worldwide every year
  • Approximately 243,000 people are injured each year in these accidents and incidents — the injury rate is 9 per 1,000 departures
  • Ramp accidents cost major airlines worldwide at least US$10 billion a year

Ground handling seems to be the "final frontier" for improvements in aviation safety. On an almost daily basis, we are seeing preventable ground incidents at airports (both small and large) all over the world. TACG provides a number of services that can help airports, Ground Service Providers (GSPs), and Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs) improve ramp safety and reduce the risks associated with ground handling activities. Our team comprises leading aviation safety experts who are ready to work with you! This page is intended to provide information and insights about ramp safety, as well as solutions available from TACG. So, grab a cup of coffee and take a look around!


TACG president Dr. Bob Baron Presenting on Human Factors at the Ground Handling International Conference in Miami 


The Nature of The Problem

Ground handling incidents are occurring on a way too frequent basis. These types of incidents often involve aircraft to aircraft contact, or contact with an aircraft by a ground service vehicle. Years ago, there were no camera phones or social media, so we never really saw what was going on on the ramp. These days, thanks to almost everyone having a smartphone, many of these incidents are recorded and posted with lightning speed to various social media platforms. These posts are providing much insight about human error on the ramp, and the costs and inconveniences associated with it.

But, while we are able to see the end results of these ground handling incidents (scroll down to see some examples), it is much more challenging to get to the reasons why they happen. This is because the majority of investigation findings are not made available as teaching/learning tools, especially for other Ground Service Providers (GSPs) or airlines. Of course, if the event is classified as a serious incident or accident, then there will likely be an investigation conducted and published by the regulatory authority (even then, this is not always the case).

The majority of ramp events are due to Human Factors issues and are typically symptomatic of higher-level, organizational issues. These events represent a failure of the Safety Management System (SMS), be it the airport’s, the GSP’s, the airline’s, or a combination of these. The SMS should, among other things, promote and foster a healthy safety culture, which includes a just culture. Unfortunately, many companies still resort to the knee-jerk reaction of simply firing an individual to "fix the problem." That's not going to be very effective. If no systemic changes are made, the next individual who is hired will probably commit the same type(s) of errors. 

If you're an airport operator, GSP, or Fixed-Base Operator (FBO), feel free to reach out so we can discuss how we can help improve ramp safety at your organization. We look forward to hearing from you! 


Because we CAN do Better!





TACG's Ramp Safety Solutions Include:


Ramp Event Reports/Investigations

B734, East Midlands UK, 2021
On 16 June 2021, a Boeing 737-400 was taxiing for departure at night after push back from stand when the ground crew who completed the push back arrived back at their base in the tug and realized that the tow bar they had used was not attached to it. The aircraft was prevented from taking off and it was then found that it had taxied over the unseen towbar and sustained damage to both nose gear tires such that replacement was necessary. The Investigation concluded neither ground crew had checked that the area immediately ahead of the aircraft was clear.

A320, Bristol UK, 2019
On 23 March 2019, the crew of a fully-loaded Airbus A320 about to depart Bristol detected an abnormal noise from the nose landing gear as a towbarless tug was being attached. Inspection found that the aircraft nose gear had been impact-damaged rendering the aircraft no longer airworthy and the passengers were disembarked. The Investigation noted that tug driver training had been in progress and that the tug had not been correctly aligned with the nose wheels, possibly due to a momentary lapse in concentration causing the tug being aligned with the nose leg rather than the nose wheels.

B738 / B738, Toronto Canada, 2018
On 5 January 2018, an out of service Boeing 737-800 was pushed back at night into collision with an in-service Boeing 737-800 waiting on the taxiway for a marshaller to arrive and direct it onto the adjacent terminal gate. The first aircraft s tail collided with the second aircraft s right wing and a fire started. The evacuation of the second aircraft was delayed by non-availability of cabin emergency lighting. The Investigation attributed the collision to failure of the apron controller and pushback crew to follow documented procedures or take reasonable care to ensure that it was safe to begin the pushback.

A320, Dublin Ireland, 2017
On 27 September 2017, an Airbus A320 being maneuvered off the departure gate at Dublin by tug was being pulled forward when the tow bar shear pin broke and the tug driver lost control. The tug then collided with the right engine causing significant damage. The tug driver and assisting ground crew were not injured. The Investigation concluded that although the shear pin failure was not attributable to any particular cause, the relative severity of the outcome was probably increased by the wet surface, a forward slope on the ramp and fact that an engine start was in progress.

B789 / A388, Singapore, 2017
On 30 March 2017, a Boeing 787 taxiing for departure at night at Singapore was involved in a minor collision with a stationary Airbus A380 which had just been pushed back from its gate and was also due to depart. The Investigation found that the conflict occurred because of poor GND controlling by a supervised trainee and had occurred because the 787 crew had exercised insufficient prudence when faced with a potential conflict with the A380. Safety Recommendations made were predominantly related to ATC procedures where it was considered that there was room for improvement in risk management.

B763 / A320, Delhi India, 2017
On 8 August 2017, a Boeing 767-300 departing Delhi was pushed back into a stationary and out of service Airbus A320 on the adjacent gate rendering both aircraft unfit for flight. The Investigation found that the A320 had been instructed to park on a stand that was supposed to be blocked, a procedural requirement if the adjacent stand is to be used by a wide body aircraft and although this error had been detected by the stand allocation system, the alert was not noticed, in part due to inappropriate configuration. It was also found that the pushback was commenced without wing walkers.

B738, Singapore, 2015
On 6 December 2015, a Boeing 737-800 was being maneuvered by tug from its departure gate at Singapore to the position where it was permitted to commence taxiing under its own power when the tug lost control of the aircraft, the tow bar broke and the two collided. The Investigation attributed the collision to the way the tug was used and concluded that the thrust during and following engine start was not a contributory factor. Some inconsistency was found between procedures for push back of loaded in-service aircraft promulgated by the airline, its ground handling contractor and the airport operator.

E190 / Vehicle, Paris CDG France, 2014
On 19 April 2014, an Embraer 190 collided with the tug which was attempting to begin a pull forward after departure pushback which, exceptionally for the terminal concerned, was prohibited for the gate involved. As a result, severe damage was caused to the lower fuselage. The Investigation found that the relevant instructions were properly documented but ignored when apron services requested a 'push-pull' to minimize departure delay for an adjacent aircraft. Previous similar events had occurred on the same gate and it was suspected that a lack of appreciation of the reasons why the maneuver used was prohibited may have been relevant.

A332, Karachi Pakistan, 2014
On 4 October 2014, the fracture of a hydraulic hose during an A330-200 pushback at night at Karachi was followed by dense fumes in the form of hydraulic fluid mist filling the aircraft cabin and flight deck. After some delay, during which a delay in isolating the APU air bleed exacerbated the ingress of fumes, the aircraft was towed back onto stand and an emergency evacuation completed. During the return to stand, a PBE unit malfunctioned and caught fire when one of the cabin crew attempted to use it which prevented use of the exit adjacent to it for evacuation.

A388, Changi Singapore, 2008
On 10 January 2008, an Airbus A380 was damaged during push back at Singapore Changi International airport when the aircraft right wing undercarriage became stuck in soft ground adjacent to the taxiway.

B772 / A321, London Heathrow UK, 2007
On 27 July 2007, a British Airways Boeing 777-200ER collided, during pushback, with a stationary Airbus A321-200. The A321 was awaiting activation of the electronic Stand Entry Guidance (SEG) and expecting entry to its designated gate.

B742, Stockholm Arlanda Sweden, 2007
On 25 June 2007, a Boeing 747-200F being operated by Cathay Pacific on a scheduled cargo flight from Stockholm to Dubai had completed push back for departure in normal daylight visibility and the parking brakes had been set. The tow vehicle crew had disconnected the tow bar but before they and their vehicle had cleared the vicinity of the aircraft, it began to taxi and collided with the vehicle. The flight crew were unaware of this and continued taxiing for about 150 meters until the flight engineer noticed that the indications from one if the engines were abnormal and the aircraft was taxied back to the gate. The tow vehicle crew and the dispatcher had been able to run clear and were not injured physically injured although all three were identified as suffering minor injury (shock). The aircraft was substantially damaged and the tow vehicle was damaged.

B735, Newark NJ USA, 2006
On 21 August 2006, a Boeing 737-500 suffered a nose landing gear collapse during towing at the Newark Liberty International Airport. A technical crew was repositioning the aircraft in visual meteorological conditions during the occurrence. No persons were injured and minor aircraft damage occurred.

B744 / A321, London Heathrow UK, 2004
On 23 March 2004, an out of service British Airways Boeing 747-400, under tow passed behind a stationary Airbus A321-200 being operated by Irish Airline Aer Lingus on a departing scheduled passenger service in good daylight visibility and the wing tip of the 747 impacted and seriously damaged the rudder of the A321. The aircraft under tow was cleared for the towing movement and the A321 was holding position in accordance with clearance. The towing team were not aware of the collision and initially, there was some doubt in the A321 flight deck about the cause of a shudder felt when the impact occurred but the cabin crew of the A321 had felt the impact shudder and upon noticing the nose of the 747 appearing concluded that it had struck their aircraft. Then the First Officer saw the damaged wing tip of the 747 and informed ATC about the possible impact. Later another aircraft, positioned behind the A321, confirmed the rudder damage. At the time of the collision, the two aircraft involved were on different ATC frequencies.

ATP, Jersey Channel Islands, 1998
On 9 May 1998, a British Regional Airlines ATP was being pushed back for departure at Jersey in daylight whilst the engines were being started when an excessive engine power setting applied by the flight crew led to the failure of the towbar connection and then to one of the aircraft's carbon fiber propellers striking the tug. A non-standard emergency evacuation followed. All aircraft occupants and ground crew were uninjured.



Examples of Ramp Incidents/Accidents

(pictures and videos)


A Delta Airlines 757 collided with a CRJ-900 during pushback at Boston Logan Airport in Massachusetts




An Air Senegal A319 was damaged at Barcelona Airport in Spain after colliding with a catering truck during pushback





A LOT 737 MAX was hit by a ground vehicle at London Heathrow Airport, causing damage to its wing



A pushback tug was crushed underneath an American Airlines 737 after a towing incident at LaGuardia Airport, NY



A Turkish Airlines A330 was damaged at Bandaranaike Airport in Sri Lanka after being hit by a luggage container



An unattended United 767 with its towbar still attached at Santiago International Airport in Chile

A Spicejet 737-800 was damaged after hitting a light pole during pushback at Delhi Airport, India



A jetBlue A320 and a Southwest B737 both received wing damage in a pushback collision at New York-La Guardia Airport, NY



CCTV captures China Airlines Cargo 747 plowing into ground equipment while taxiing at Chicago's O'Hare Airport



A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 sustained unknown damage to its right engine when it allegedly began to taxi prematurely after pushback dragging the tow bar below

Two United Airlines aircraft collided on the ground at Newark Liberty Airport, NJ



Spirit Airlines winglet to winglet contact during pushback



A South African Airways B-737 hits service truck while taxiing at Lusaka International airport



Not many details known about this, but the video says enough!




Contact us for more information