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NEWS | Feb. 15, 2022

Blog: Planning for Unplanned Aircraft Moves

By Senior Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Andrew S. Van Norman

There are many dangers and risks in Naval Aviation. Moving an aircraft seems like a very simple task, but if not done correctly, could very well lead to a costly and grave outcome. Unfortunately, even with procedures, policies, and instructions in place to avoid an Aircraft Ground Mishap (AGM), if proper steps are not followed this simple evolution can lead to serious damage to aircraft or injury or death to personnel.

(You may download a magazine version of this article here.)
 
Every operational day there is typically the need to move at least one aircraft in every squadron around the fleet. Whether it is a move into the hangar for maintenance, out to the flight line to prepare for flight operations, or for various other reasons we have to move aircraft; to do it correctly, there are steps which must be followed. These steps have been developed and refined over many decades to ensure everyone involved knows their specific responsibilities in the task to ensure the move is executed safely.
 
A move plan and move briefs are conducted before each move evolution to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the “who, what, when, where and “why.” However, there are situations when there is not enough time for the planning phase of the evolution. Extreme weather, emergency landings, schedule changes driving aircraft changes, or other unforeseen circumstances may develop and require an aircraft to be moved immediately. It is circumstances like these that we always need to be prepared for. Pre-planning and contingency plans are important for these cases, to be prepared for the unexpected, whether it is with aircraft on the flight deck when underway or on the flight line operating ashore. The steps listed below are the minimum topics that should be discussed in a pre-planning or contingency move brief:
 
Identify a six-member team:
  • Move Director
  • Licensed Tow Tractor Driver
  • Brake Rider
  • Port Wing Walker
  • Starboard Wing Walker
  • Tail Walker
Note: If the aircraft does not have operable brakes, two additional chock walkers will be assigned to the move team and the brake rider requirement will be removed.
 
A move brief involving the identified team with Maintenance Control leadership attentively listening and ensuring the aircraft director covers all the following at a minimum:
  • All personnel are aware of their positions and responsibilities within the move evolution.
  • Discuss NALCOMIS/ADB/OOMA/ALIS review (does aircraft have operational brakes, critical doors and panels installed, etc. Is the aircraft safe to move?)
  • Aircraft current location, condition, and hazards around the aircraft (Are there any obstacles within the safety diamond or adjacent to aircraft? Is the aircraft chocked? Grounded? Folded or Spread? Are chains attached? Are there immediate conditions that have caused mishaps in similar squadrons? etc.)
  • Aircraft location, move destination, distance, travel path and any known hazards along that route (Is there weather that can affect the move? Is there any construction or work being conducted in the path with no other route available? Are there fixed obstacles that have caused issues, near misses, or mishaps with other squadrons before on this route? etc.)
  • Emergency procedures
  • Whistles in mouth (and air horns in hand depending on the TMS), not in pockets, ready to use when needed with no delay. Dusk to dark evolutions also require wands in hand and at the ready. Any other PPE required? Any whistle or horn sounds, as applicable to TMS, immediately stop the movement evolution. Discuss that if the aircraft is stopped, everyone on the team must be clear as to why prior to resuming the move.
  • Hand signals
  • Towing speed
  • Wind speed (as applicable)
  • If there is a need to stop, DO NOT disconnect tow bar without brakes engaged and chocks in place.
  • Identify any concerns or questions (Minimum risk management questions prior: What about this task could hurt people or damage aircraft? Can we damage support equipment and how? What is different about this specific evolution? What could change from what was briefed? Minimum questions after the evolution: During the evolution did we do anything unsafe? If yes, what and why? Did we violate any standard operating procedures? If yes, what and why? Was something unclear or someone confused or inattentive during the evolution? If yes, remedy. Were there any lessons learned during the evolution to make the process better that need to be shared with the remainder of air wing?)
 These are only the basic move brief topics. Every move situation will vary, but the safety processes are still valid and must be adhered to.
 
It is highly encouraged and recommended that a command policy letter and move brief checklist or card are readily available and followed before all aircraft move evolutions, whether pre-planned or unplanned. An example of a “best practice” brief checklist and ORM brief checklist card can be found below or on the Naval Safety Command’s CAC-enabled site. If you are not registered for this site already, visit the public website, NAVSAFECOM, scroll down and click on the orange-colored box labeled “For those requiring access to the Naval Safety Command’s CAC-enabled site, click below.”
 
All move evolutions should also be debriefed using debrief cards or checklist also found on our CAC-enabled website and on our public website within the downloads link for Aviation Posters or via Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team (FAAST) aviation maintenance hangar website. For business card size pre- and post-evolution risk management checklist, visit FAA BizCard. These Naval Safety Command and FAA checklists could be tailored to make your own internal checklist or wing pre- and post-evolution checklist.
 
Elements of an Aircraft Move ORM Safety Briefing Card: 
  • Is aircraft safe to move (operable brakes, critical doors and panels installed, overall integrity, etc.)?
  • Has a safety brief been conducted with all personnel prior to move?
  • Are a qualified Plane Captain, licensed tractor driver, qualified brake rider, two wing walkers, and one tail walker assigned to the move?
  • If the aircraft does not have operable brakes, are there two additional chock walkers assigned to the move?
  • Are all personnel aware of their responsibilities in regards to emergency procedures, hand signals, walking distances and towing speed?
  • Are the ejection seat and canopy pinned and safe?
  • Are the APU and the Emergency Brake Accumulator pressurized to the minimum of 2900 PSI?
  • Are the wing/tail walkers equipped with operable whistles/wands (as applicable)?
  • Is the aircraft properly chocked and grounded; with the canopy closed, drip pans installed, and plugs and covers installed (as applicable)?