Things you only know if you’re ... an aircraft marshaller

By Gail Piyanan
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...according to Passaworn Sawangkul, 28 

There are aircraft marshallers simply because pilots can’t see the parking line from the cockpit

Marshallers use universal body signals to communicate with the pilot and give them precise directions to stop the aircraft. Marshallers also need to keep the taxiway and the plane’s parking spot free from “foreign object damage,” such as plastic bags and little screws, at all times. Things get more difficult during conditions with low visibility, like heavy rains or hazy weather.

Things are more complicated than just waving paddles, and involving many parties

For each landing, an airport traffic controller will communicate with the pilot with regards to the direction where the airplane can touch down. The pilot will then coordinate with an aircraft maintenance technician who will pass along landing and parking information to a marshaller, who is responsible for giving the marshalling signals for the pilot to see.

Aircraft Marshaller

You need more than an academic degree

A diploma qualification is a minimum requirement for all applicants. However, in the process of becoming a professional marshaller, you will also need to take a Human Factors course to learn about the limitations of the human body—like how many hours of sleep you need per night before coming to work—a general familiarization course that teaches you about each type of airplane and, most importantly, a marshalling training program where you learn all the marshalling signals based on the International Civil Aviation Organization standard.

Aircraft Marshaller

You can only direct five planes into a parking point each day

This measure has been calculated based on Human Factor science. The job is divided into two shifts: a day shift that runs between 06:00 to 19:00 and a night shift that runs from 18:00 to 07:00. An aircraft marshaller usually works 13 hours a day on either shift, with several breaks in between. Every four consecutive working days will be followed by four days off in a row.

Aircraft Marshaller

Aircraft marshallers wear a special kind of super-sturdy shoes

You need four main safety tools to keep yourself from harm: a pair of earmuffs to reduce the noise of airplane’s engines, safety shoes with toe caps made of metal (to keep your feet safe regardless of what runs over them), a neon-colored safety vest jacket to make you visually visible to pilots and a pair of LED signal wands for marshallers who work at the night shift. Day-shift marshallers use marshalling bats.

Passaworn is a maintenance control center executive at Nok Air

Aircraft Marshaller

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