Ramp Safety Improves With Pushback Crew Communication


Team communication during pushback is absolutely essential to improve ramp safety and productivity. Aviation ground support personnel depend on communication for their own safety as well as the safety of others. Ambient noise, such as the roar of jet aircraft, can dramatically affect the ability of teams to communicate without the use of integrated hearing protection and audio communication systems. According to the FAA, poor communication contributes to more airline accidents than any other human factor.


In the past, aviation ramp workers in high-noise environments had few choices for communicating on the job. They shouted, used hand signals, and depended on one member of the team talking over wired headsets to the pilot while the rest of the ground crew tried to figure out what was being said. They had even fewer choices for hearing protection. Earplugs and earmuffs were standard issue.

Ramp safety drawbacks were many, for communication and hearing protection:

  • Shouting to be heard over background noise caused dangerous misunderstandings;
  • Hand signals required line-of-sight visibility;
  • Earplugs and earmuffs protected hearing, but made it even harder to communicate.

What about wired headsets? True, they can provide clear communication and hearing protection. But they also require that individuals remain tethered to the aircraft intercom. Plus, only one crew member can hear the flight deck, leaving wing-walkers guessing. And the wires restrict mobility, become entangled with equipment easily, and wear out quickly. Let’s not even talk about wires becoming electrical conduits when a grounded aircraft is struck by lightning.


Now, after years of success on the ramp and in other high-noise environments such as on fire trucks, construction sites or factory floors, the latest generation of wireless communication systems offer even more ways to improve ramp safety. Many airlines already use these solutions for pushback as well as maintenance, deicing, cargo loading and more.

Wireless headsets reduce background noise and allow teams of almost any size to communicate clearly and effectively. They continuously connect one or more wing walkers with the tug operator during aircraft movement, letting the operator concentrate on correct and efficient maneuvering. All the while the crew is ready with instant communication in case of danger or a change in movement or ramp conditions.

The tug operator communicates wirelessly with the flight deck and all team members can hear the conversation. Because wireless communication increases coordination and enables real-time verbal warnings, it decreases the risks and costs associated with ramp accidents and incidents, reduces turn-around times, and increases on-time departures.

Wireless headsets improve ramp safety and communication while preserving the health of users through advanced hearing protection. They leave the wearer free to use traditional hand signals as required. Workers gain freedom of movement while eliminating risk of injury from being tethered to an aircraft. And because wireless headsets don’t need to be connected to a stationary intercom, crew members can stay in continuous contact with each other, especially on the move.


Wireless communication systems are affordable; the cost of deploying a system starts at less than 1% of the average insurance deductible for a wide-body aircraft. And, they offer both a financial and human return on that investment. Implementing wireless ramp communication could easily pay for itself in direct cost savings in less than a few weeks. After systems are broadly deployed, they will help prevent accidents and injuries each and every year.

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