This article describes the potential hazards to passengers on the apron and the possible mitigation measures. Most risks to passengers on the apron arise from the fact that the passengers are usually unfamiliar with the environment. Therefore one of the main tasks when designing procedures for passengers is to ensure that they stay away from the hazardous areas or they are properly guided.
Responsibility for ensuring that passengers are safeguarded between the aircraft and the terminal building is shared between the airline, aerodrome operator and any ground handlers involved. It is vital that it is clear who is responsible for providing staff to supervise and/or escort passengers across the apron, and that sufficient numbers of staff are provided. Failure to supervise passengers properly may lead to accidents with serious consequences for all involved. There are two main groups of hazards to passengers on the apron:
- Hazards to passengers outside aircraft
- Passengers getting lost
- Passengers getting hit by a vehicle/aircraft
- Passengers getting injured by a propeller/jet blast/excessive engine noise
- Hazards to passengers inside aircraft
Risks and Mitigation Measures outside Aircraft
At aerodromes, passengers may have to walk across the apron between the terminal building and the aircraft. This may expose passengers to hazards such as vehicles moving across the apron. The risks of injury are increased as passengers are vulnerable and generally unaware of the dangers around them. They can also get lost (e.g. due to ambiguous or improper markings). This greatly increases the chance they get into a hazardous situation (e.g. a passenger might approach an aircraft undergoing engine checks, the engineering personnel will most likely not be aware of their presence and therefore may not divert them soon enough). In addition, passengers may leave objects on the apron which could eventually become a source for engine foreign object damage (FOD).
The aerodrome operator is supposed to provide an aerodrome that is safe for its users. The design of the layout and the facilities can make a significant contribution to the safety of passengers. Most of the risks can be (almost) eliminated by using airbridges for passenger embarking and disembarking. Where the provision of airbridges is not reasonably practicable, the aerodrome operator should ensure that the layout and marking of airside areas enables the safe movement of passengers to and from the terminal areas. The aerodrome operator, the airline operator and ground handlers all have responsibility for ensuring that the movement of passengers is strictly supervised and controlled. The steps that can be taken to ensure passenger health and safety on the apron vary from aerodrome to aerodrome, but should usually include the following measures:
- Passengers should not be permitted to roam free;
- Where possible, the aerodrome operator should ensure that permanent traffic routes, e.g. aerodrome roads or taxiways, do not dissect the path between the terminal and the aircraft. Where this is not possible the aerodrome operator should provide safe routes marked on the apron surface (including safe crossing points for the apron roads) and clear, unambiguous signs to indicate the route to be followed.
- Safe routes can be indicated by the use of moveable barriers and chains (‘Tensator’ type devices) to create a temporary safe route across the apron for passengers to follow. When not in use, it is important that such equipment is properly stowed to ensure that it does not become a source of FOD;
- Routes to the aircraft should not pass below aircraft wings or beneath fuel vents, or close to propellers or rotors of the aircraft they are boarding/disembarking or those of aircraft on adjacent stands. Routes should also be clear of vehicular traffic around the aircraft, electrical cables, fuel hoses and other ramp equipment;
- Restrictions should be placed on the running of aircraft engines in the vicinity of passengers and positive measures should be taken to protect them from excessive engine noise and jet blast;
- Passengers should be informed of the safe route they should follow into the terminal/aircraft, e.g. by public announcement before they leave the aircraft/ terminal. However, relying solely on informing passengers of safe routes and marking them out is unlikely to be adequate for commercial passenger operations. Whenever passengers are to walk across the apron there should be sufficient staff to ensure that passengers do not wander away from safe routes. If staff is insufficient, then passengers may need to be disembarked or boarded in small groups which can be adequately controlled by the available staff.
- For remote stands or stands in a different location to the terminal lounge, passengers should be transported to the aircraft by bus.
Risks and Mitigation Measures inside Aircraft
The mitigation of risks associated with refuelling is described in the article Refuelling with Passengers on Board.
Passengers should be instructed to remain seated while the aircraft is taxiing to reduce the risk of injuries. While it is standard procedure for airlines to make an announcement stating that all passengers are to remain in their seats after landing until the aircraft has come to a full stop, there are passengers who choose to ignore the message. In such cases it is up to the cabin attendants to intervene and make sure that the passengers comply with the instructions.
Consideration should be given to unusual circumstances, such as evacuation of terminal buildings or aircraft, in which passengers and other members of the public may be required to enter airside areas. Procedures should ensure that responsible persons who are familiar with the hazards that exist in airside areas are present to supervise passengers and members of the public as soon as practicable wherever there is emergency egress. Consideration should also be given to methods by which aircraft movement and other sources of hazard may be stopped in areas in which passengers and members of the public may congregate with limited supervision.