Aircraft Hangar Safety Tips: How to Protect Your Staff and Items
by Crista Worthy
Whether it houses a full-service FBO, charter aircraft operations, aircraft service and repairs, prop shop, or avionics installation and repair facility, a commercial aircraft hangar is a busy place. A comprehensive safety checklist, augmented with a smart automation system, will ensure the safety of staff and clients while also protecting valuable aircraft and equipment from theft or damage.
In compiling this guide, I interviewed Bill Heard, A&P and IA (certified Aircraft & Powerplant mechanic with Inspection Authorization from the FAA), who founded Bill’s Air Center in Santa Monica, California, an aircraft service and repair facility that’s been in business since 1989. We also spoke with John Blakely, co-owner of AvCenter, founded in 1979. AvCenter is a full-service FBO and premium jet aircraft charter and private aircraft charter business with commercial operations in three locations, Nampa, Idaho Falls and Pocatello (Idaho)
Plus, I drew from my own experience not only as an aircraft owner but as a professional aircraft detailer. I often worked inside Bill’s Air Center and several other commercial hangers, detailing aircraft in for service or repairs. I have observed many different types of operations as they took place, and am aware of many of the safety procedures outlined below.
- Never touch a prop until you have verified the mags are not hot.
- Never leave aircraft keys in the ignition.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Dangers below include tripping. Dangers above include aircraft wings hitting your head. Stay away from aircraft propellers.
- Keep the floor clean and regularly mopped. Avgas contains lead which can combine with floor dirt, etc.
- If there has been a fuel leak, be sure to completely air out the hangar, to dissipate flammable fumes.
- Never use Avgas as a solvent.
- Whether moving an aircraft, using a ladder, working on an airplane, or just walking—move slowly! Something falling on the aircraft could cause a big unexpected expense that is easily preventable
- Use hearing and eye protection.
- Fill O2 cylinders slowly.
- Never get under an aircraft on jacks or an aircraft with suspected landing gear problems.
- Jack both sides of the aircraft at the same time. Agree on hand or voice signals ahead of time. Once the aircraft is raised to the proper height, ensure that the jack is “safe-tied” so it won’t collapse.
- Some fluids, such as certain hydraulic fluids for example, can be highly corrosive, burning skin or damaging the floor. When spills occur, wash hands and clean floors and equipment immediately.
- Ensure that fire extinguishers are inspected regularly.
- It’s a good practice to wear rubber gloves when working on an aircraft.
- Know how to use the tool you have in your hand.
- Turn your cellphone off when you are working on an aircraft. Distractions lead to mistakes.
- Never touch another person’s tool(s) without express permission. Always return it (them) to the exact same location as soon as you are finished.
- When finishing work on any part of the airplane, always double-check to see that no tools, rags, or other materials have been left behind.
- Always chock all aircraft.
- Use wing walkers when moving obstacles or aircraft that are close to each other. Before moving the aircraft, use agreed-upon hand signals and/or call-outs.
- Hangar doors must always be completely open or completely closed, especially bifold doors that raise vertically. Partially open doors tear off airplane tails.
- Ensure that the hangar door area is clear before opening or closing the door.
- Staff members should not use a tug to move an aircraft until they have finished an adequate amount of dual instruction and shown that they can safely maneuver all types of aircraft in all types of situations. Even after being cleared to “solo” a tug, the staff member should be supervised until the manager is satisfied that the staffer has enough experience to truly handle the tug alone.
- Ensure that the tug is adequate for the job. New tug technology is available to safely handle many different types of aircraft.
- Create designated areas for equipment to minimize danger to aircraft. Outlines can be drawn on the floor to help ensure compliance over time.
- Store equipment in its intended location.
- Maintain adequate lighting.
- Always maintain easy access to fire extinguishers.
- Keep air hoses on reels or hangers in a designated area on the wall. Don't leave them on the floor.
- Keep ladders secured in a designated area where they can't damage an airplane.
- Never leave unattended ladders next to an airplane (especially outside in the wind).
- Keep paint in a properly designated paint cabinet.
- Keep oxygen cylinders separate from flammables and greases and keep them chained to the wall.
- Always have good Hangar Keeper's Insurance. A good security system could help reduce your insurance costs.
Fueling and Other Operations
- Always comply with required equipment inspections: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.
- Never fuel or de-fuel an airplane or vehicle inside a hangar.
- Always chock the airplane and the refueler.
- Always use a bonding cable to protect against static electricity.
- Be very aware of static electricity in all its forms: thunderstorms, cellphones, etc.
- Move slowly and use great caution close to the airplane. You can do a lot of damage with the hose, nozzle and ladder.
- Avoid backing up the refueler unless absolutely necessary. Use a second person if you must back up.
- Drive slowly.
- Always, always, always confirm fuel type (Avgas or Jet-A).
- Always confirm the amount of fuel.
- Always confirm that fuel caps are properly replaced.
- Never, ever be reluctant to ask the flight crew for clarification or instruction.
- Drive slowly!
- Be aware of prop blast, jet blast or rotor wash. Aircraft run-ups should be done in a designated run-up area.
Thomas Clarence said:
You made an interesting point when you explained that the doors on a hanger must always be closed or open. I would imagine that this would be important in order to prevent the doors from damaging the tail on an airplane. I would imagine that these doors are fairly heavy, so it would be important for people to stay away from them when they are opening or closing. https://alamohangardoors.com/products/bifolding-hangar-doors/
Taylor Hansen said:
I like how you mentioned using a ladder when working on an aircraft. Since I just got my private pilot’s license, I want to find an airplane that I can call mine. I’ll have to also make sure it’s regularly maintained during the offseason http://skybossaviation.com/ .
Charlotte Fleet said:
Crista, thank you so much for your safety tips for aircraft staff and items. I like how you said that it is important not to touch a prop until you know it’s not hot and to never leave the keys in the ignition. I think that another way to ensure safety would be to invest in the proper equipment for when you are doing maintenance on an aircraft’s engine. https://nextgenaerosupport.com/
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