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Composite Airframe Ground Damage Risk

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Category: Ground Operations Ground Operations
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: SKYbrary About SKYbrary


Ramp accidents cost airlines significant amounts of money but these accidents only become a flight safety risk if they represent an airworthiness risk and are either undetected or unreported. The increasing use of composite materials in aircraft manufacturing may lead to increased risk because often, after being hit, a composite surface returns to its original shape and the damage underneath is not visible to the naked eye. A simple ‘tap’ test might not detect a delamination at an early stage or in specific areas.

The operational safety emphases are:

  • Avoidance - reduce the risk of damage occurring.
  • Correct Response to events which may have caused damage
  • Education - explaining to personnel why it is important to report accidents even if there is no visible evidence of damage.


Any impact, no matter how slight, should be immediately reported to the Pilot in Command (PIC) of the aircraft if present or the aircraft operator's line engineering agency at the airport. The location and nature of the impact must be recorded accurately.


Operators and ramp handling agencies need to have robust education and response processes in place and properly documented. All personnel who work in close proximity to aircraft must:

  • understand that composite structures may not have any visible signs of structural damage after even a minor impact and
  • fully appreciate the critical importance of immediately reporting any impact to an appropriate person who is in a position to ensure that the aircraft does not depart for a flight without an assessment of the extent of any risk to flight safety by a competent and appropriately qualified specialist.

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