The concept for the use of 'Follow Me' vehicles varies from airport to airport: 'Follow Me' vehicles may be provided as a matter of convenience, or safety, or a combination of both. Also, it may be unclear when they should be used - pilots report that, paradoxically, on a ‘complicated’ aerodrome they are not generally provided, yet at other less complicated airfields their use is more commonplace.
The following points could be considered when developing SOPs for follow me vehicles:
- Ensure that the vehicle's ‘bridge’ lights or ‘light bar’ are not switched on until the marshalling actually starts.
- If appropriate, ATC may make clear to pilots where the marshalling begins and ends.
- In some circumstances it may be better to mention the presence/use of ‘Follow Me’ vehicles/marshallers only at the last minute to avoid confusing the pilot.
- As a rule, ‘Follow Me’ vehicles should not be positioned on the far side of an active runway that needs to be crossed as part of the taxiing; however, there is a potential downside to this since it may involve an additional crossing of the active runway by the ‘Follow Me’ vehicle for it to be in the correct location. (see example scenario below)
- ‘Follow Me’ vehicles may be used in LVPs - but pilots need to know when the marshalling ends, e.g. at the Holding Point, and not be tempted to continue following a 'Follow Me’ vehicle that has completed its function.
Typical Scenario Leading to a Runway Incursion
An airport has two runways, runway 01/19 and a crossing runway 08/26. Two ramp areas exists, the main one located west of threshold runway 19 and north of runway 08/26, a smaller on the opposite side of threshold runway 19. There are no taxiways east of runway 01/19 except for a short intersection from runway 08/26 to the minor apron.
Weather: summer conditions, good visibility, overcast and daylight.
The red aircraft, a general aviation jet aircraft, lands on runway 19. Being unfamiliar with the airport it proceeds slowly on the runway, exiting to the right. Following instructions from the controller it proceeds slowly north on taxiway Alpha, a taxiway parallel to runway 19. The clearance also includes instructions to turn right east on runway 08, to hold short of runway 01/19.
The controller ensures that the stop bar on runway 08 at the holding point for runway 01/19 is activated (no paint or signs mark the holding point). In addition, the holding point has runway guard lights on each side of runway 08.
Turning on to runway 08, the pilot slightly increases the taxi speed. On the other side (i.e. east of runway 19) a "follow me" vehicle waits without any lights activated. The flight crew on the general aviation aircraft cross the holding point and stop a few metres from runway 19 where a landing aircraft (yellow) crosses in front of them.
ICAO Annex 2, para 188.8.131.52.2 states “An aircraft taxiing on the manoeuvring area shall stop and hold at all runway holding positions unless otherwise authorized by the aerodrome control tower”.
ICAO Doc. 4444, para 184.108.40.206.1.2 however states “When a taxi clearance contains a taxi limit beyond a runway, it shall contain an explicit clearance to cross or an instruction to hold short of that runway”.
ICAO Doc. 4444 can be seen as concerning ATC only. If a clearance to a point beyond a runway is given without an explicit clearance to cross the runway, the pilot may mistakenly believe that ATC has authorised the crossing in accordance with ICAO Annex 2.
- ICAO Annex 2 - Rules of the Air: Chapter 3, Section 3.2.2
- ICAO Doc 4444 - PANS-ATM: Chapter 7, Section 7.5.
- European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Incursions, Appendix A - Communications Guidance
- European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Incursions, Appendix C - Airside Vehicle Driver Training
- ICAO Doc 9870 App A - Communications Best Practice
- ICAO Doc 9870 App D - Airside Vehicle Driving Best Practice
- An Airside Driver's Guide to Runway Safety: Airservices Australia, 3rd edition, June 2012.
- ACI Airside Safety Handbook, 4th edition, 2010
- AC 150/5210-20A: Ground Vehicle Operations to include Taxiing or Towing an Aircraft on Airports, FAA, September 2015