Chapter 11. Safety, Ground Operations, & Servicing

Auxiliary Power Units (APUs)

APUs are generally smaller turbine engines that provide compressed air for starting engines, cabin heating and cooling, and electrical power while on the ground. Their operation is normally simple. By turning a switch on and up to the start position (spring loaded to on position), the engine will start automatically. During start, the exhaust gas temperature must be monitored. APUs are at idle at 100 percent rpm with no load. After the engine reaches its operating rpm, it can be used for cooling or heating the cabin and for electrical power. It is normally used to start the main engines.

Unsatisfactory Turbine Engine Starts

Hot Start

A hot start occurs when the engine starts, but the exhaust gas temperature exceeds specified limits. This is usually caused by an excessively rich fuel/air mixture entering the combustion chamber. This condition can be caused by either too much fuel or not enough airflow. The fuel to the engine should be shut off immediately.

False or Hung Start

False or hung starts occur when the engine starts normally, but the rpm remains at some low value rather than increasing to the normal starting rpm. This is often the result of insufficient power to the starter, or the starter cutting off before the engine starts self-accelerating. In this case, the engine should be shut down.

Engine Will Not Start

The engine will not start within the prescribed time limit. It can be caused by lack of fuel to the engine, insufficient or no electrical power to the exciter in the ignition system, or incorrect fuel mixer. If the engine fails to start within the prescribed time, it should be shut down.

In all cases of unsatisfactory starts the fuel and ignition should be turned off. Continue rotating the compressor for approximately 15 seconds to remove accumulated fuel from the engine. If unable to motor (rotate) the engine, allow a 30-second fuel draining period before attempting another start.

Towing of Aircraft

Movement of large aircraft on an airport and about the flight line and hangar is usually accomplished by towing with a tow tractor (sometimes called a “tug"). [Figure 11-19] In the case of small aircraft, some moving is accomplished by hand, by pushing on the correct areas of the aircraft. Aircraft may also be taxied about the flight line, but usually only by certain qualified persons.

Towing aircraft can be a hazardous operation, causing damage to the aircraft and injury to personnel, if done recklessly or carelessly. The following paragraphs outline the general procedure for towing aircraft; however, specific instructions for each model of aircraft are detailed in the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and should be followed in all instances.

Before the aircraft to be towed is moved, a qualified person must be in the cockpit to operate the brakes in case the tow bar should fail or become unhooked. The aircraft can then be stopped, preventing possible damage.

Some types of tow bars available for general use can be used for many types of towing operations. [Figure 11-20] These bars are designed with sufficient tensile strength to pull most aircraft, but are not intended to be subjected to torsional or twisting loads. Many have small wheels that permit them to be drawn behind the towing vehicle going to or from an aircraft. When the bar is attached to the aircraft, inspect all the engaging devices for damage or malfunction before moving the aircraft.

Some tow bars are designed for towing various types of aircraft; however, other special types can be used on a particular aircraft only. Such bars are usually designed and built by the aircraft manufacturer.

When towing the aircraft, the towing vehicle speed must be reasonable, and all persons involved in the operation must be alert. When the aircraft is stopped, do not rely upon the brakes of the towing vehicle alone to stop the aircraft. The person in the cockpit should coordinate the use of the aircraft brakes with those of the towing vehicle. A typical smaller aircraft tow tractor (or tug) is shown in Figure 11-21.

The attachment of the tow bar varies on different types of aircraft. Aircraft equipped with tailwheels are generally towed forward by attaching the tow bar to the main landing gear. In most cases, it is permissible to tow the aircraft in reverse by attaching the tow bar to the tailwheel axle. Any time an aircraft equipped with a tailwheel is towed, the tailwheel must be unlocked or the tailwheel locking mechanism will be damaged or broken. Aircraft equipped with tricycle landing gear are generally towed forward by attaching a tow bar to the axle of the nosewheel. They may also be towed forward or backward by attaching a towing bridle or specially designed towing bar to the towing lugs on the main landing gear. When an aircraft is towed in this manner, a steering bar is attached to the nosewheel to steer the aircraft.

The following towing and parking procedures are typical of one type of operation. They are examples, and not necessarily suited to every type of operation. Aircraft ground-handling personnel should be thoroughly familiar with all procedures pertaining to the types of aircraft being towed and local operation standards governing ground handling of aircraft. Only competent persons properly checked out should direct an aircraft towing team.

  • The towing vehicle driver is responsible for operating the vehicle in a safe manner and obeying emergency stop instructions given by any team member.
  • The person in charge should assign team personnel as wing walkers. A wing walker should be stationed at each wingtip in such a position that he or she can ensure adequate clearance of any obstruction in the path of the aircraft. A tail walker should be assigned when sharp turns are to be made, or when the aircraft is to be backed into position.
  • A qualified person should occupy the pilot’s seat of the towed aircraft to observe and operate the brakes as required. When necessary, another qualified person is stationed to watch and maintain aircraft hydraulic system pressure.
  • The person in charge of the towing operation should verify that, on aircraft with a steerable nosewheel, the locking scissors are set to full swivel for towing. The locking device must be reset after the tow bar has been removed from the aircraft. Persons stationed in the aircraft should not attempt to steer or turn the nosewheel when the tow bar is attached to the aircraft.
  • Under no circumstances should anyone be permitted to walk or to ride between the nosewheel of an aircraft and the towing vehicle, nor ride on the outside of a moving aircraft or on the towing vehicle. In the interest of safety, no attempt to board or leave a moving aircraft or towing vehicle should be permitted.
  • The towing speed of the aircraft should not exceed that of the walking team members. The aircraft’s engines usually are not operated when the aircraft is being towed into position.
  • The aircraft brake system should be charged before each towing operation. Aircraft with faulty brakes should be towed into position only for repair of brake systems, and then only with personnel standing by ready with chocks for emergency use. Chocks must be immediately available in case of an emergency throughout any towing operation.
  • To avoid possible personal injury and aircraft damage during towing operations, entrance doors should be closed, ladders retracted, and gear downlocks installed.
  • Prior to towing any aircraft, check all tires and landing gear struts for proper inflation. (Inflation of landing gear struts of aircraft in overhaul and storage is excluded.)
  • When moving aircraft, do not start and stop suddenly. For added safety, aircraft brakes must never be applied during towing except in emergencies, and then only upon command by one of the tow team members.
  • Aircraft should be parked in specified areas only. Generally, the distance between rows of parked aircraft should be great enough to allow immediate access of emergency vehicles in case of fire, as well as free movement of equipment and materials.
  • Wheel chocks should be placed fore and aft of the main landing gear of the parked aircraft.
  • Internal or external control locks (gust locks or blocks) should be used while the aircraft is parked.
  • Prior to any movement of aircraft across runways or taxiways, contact the airport control tower on the appropriate frequency for clearance to proceed.
  • An aircraft should not be parked in a hangar without immediately being statically grounded.
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