Every aircraft has often to be moved on the ground, and when parked in the open must be protected against wind and inclement weather. Some aircraft can be man handled, most have to be towed. Aircraft are built to fly and thus withstand strenuous forces, but on the ground they are fragile and care is required by the ground movement team to avoid damage when moving an aircraft. This training film illustrates the correct procedures for moving a variety of aircraft, the ancillary equipment employed and depicts a series of accidents resulting from errors made by the movement team.
Reel one: "Movement, Marshalling and picketing": Film opens with a ground movement crew manhandling a de Havilland Vampire and another crew towing a Handley Page Victor bomber on the hard standing. Many accidents occur when the airframe collides with a static obstruction. Film cuts to a Meteor being towed out of a hanger where the wing tip has broken off against the hangar because the NCO in charge allowed himself to be distracted. When an aircraft is on the ground, three important facts must be remembered: Weight, wheels and wings. Some aircraft are heavy, cut to a Handley Page Hastings aircraft (327 on the tail), some are featherweight, cut to Chipmunk and some are very heavy (40 tons), cut to Vickers Valiant bomber. Heavy or light, an aircraft has momentum and once moving can be difficult to control, particularly so for heavy aircraft. The second important fact is the under-carriage, wheels and tyres. They are designed chiefly as shock absorbers and are straight running when an aircraft takes off or lands. Aircraft tyres are not designed for cornering. Film cuts to a Hawker Typhoon (SW683) landing and parking under the control of the ground marshall who directs the aircraft to make a very tight turn causing the tyre to crease. Later the same aircraft takes off, completes his mission, returns and touches down as the creased tyre bursts, the olio collapses and aircraft veers off the runway and crashes. The third important fact is that aircraft have wings much wider than the fuselage. Obvious, but often overlooked. Film cuts to a three man movement crew moving a Canberra as they try to avoid an obstacle on the tarmac but forgetting the wings, foul the port wing tip on an adjacent hangar pillar causing extensive damage and resulting in severe disciplinary action for the crew.
This type of accident need not happen. For large aircraft a five man crew is led by the senior NCO at the front of the aircraft from a position where he has eye contact with a crewman at the rear, crewman at each wingtip and the cockpit airman or pilot. At all times during the manoeuvre the NCO /four crewmen must retain eye contact, shifting their position to maintain this. The NCO may have radio contact with the cockpit airman and selected crewmen to assist communication when lines of sight are large.
Reel two: "Manhandling and towing": Film cuts to a hangar where several Canberra aircraft are being serviced. Before removal from the hangar a series of checks of the aircraft are performed. These checks are listed in form 700. Additional checks are made by the NCO before he authorises movement. Prior to this the working area is cleared of tools and access frames. The team push the aircraft at denoted strong points, using the front wheel within a temporary frame to steer the aircraft. The same rules apply when towing an aircraft. A quick release safety device is incorporated in the towing arm which uncouples itself from the load when resistance is encountered. This device the "Tow bar automatic release coupling" is demonstrated in a working model for training purposes. Different release load settings are set according to the type of aircraft.
When an aircraft is moving, turning must not exceed a change in direction of 300 for manhandling or 200 when towing. Film cuts to a Meteor with the nose-wheel embedded in the soft ground after running off the tarmac. Retrieval must be made backwards to prevent further damage using a bridle (several separate cables) attached to wheel cradles to spread the load when towed by a tractor. For aircraft with a tail wheel (cut to a Hastings) retrieval must be forward by bridle, and since this is not rigid there is the chance the aircraft may overrun the tractor, so the cockpit airman must be ready to apply the aircraft brakes before the tractor driver applies his. The film shows the retrieval of a Hastings in progress. The Valiant is a very heavy aircraft (40 tons) and stresses arise every time the aircraft is moved on the ground, in particular for the under-carriage (the olio) when the aircraft is being turned. The film follows the progress of the Valiant (WZ382) as it is manoeuvred towards the hangars. Another problem occurs if the aircraft is tail heavy (low on fuel or snow has fallen) a stabilising pole is hung from the rear of the fuselage to indicate the state of balance so immediate action may be taken.
Reel three: "Taxying and Marshalling": The control tower guides the incoming pilot to the runway and turn off point, where the landing marshall is waiting to take over, guiding the pilot to the parking area and the parking marshall who indicates where the pilot must stop. The marshall communicates with the pilot by placing their arms in predetermined positions to signify a specific instruction to the pilot. Visibility is enhanced during day by white batons, and at night by illuminated wands, all held at arms length. At all times the marshall must move with the aircraft, maintaining his position relative to the pilot until the engine is shut down. The film illustrates the various signals conveyed by the arm/baton/wand positions. Night time operations follow day time procedures but even more strictly because dispersal areas are not brightly lit, as in times or war: visibility from the cockpit is poor so the pilot must rely on the eyes of the ground mashall team until he is airborne.
"Parking and Picketing": RAF stations are located in many parts of the world under difficult climatic conditions from tropical to sub-Arctic, and aircraft on the ground must be protected from these harmful conditions. Film cuts to protective covers for the engines and cockpit of a Canberra being fitted. Clamps are inserted between movable wing components such as flaps, ailerons, rudders, and if strong winds/gales imminent, the aircraft is secured by ropes from lashing points to attachment points permanently fixed in the hard standing. In the absence of this facility, ground attachment points are established with screw type augers, or sandbags to secure the aircraft with lashing ropes.