EASA issues new ground handling guidelines

(Photo: Swissport)

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), has issued a series of guidelines relating to ground handling services in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

They are outlined in a new Information Safety Bulletin (SIB) named Provision of Groundhandling Services at Aerodromes. The new document notes how, following the suspension of the majority of flights, ground handling companies were forced to either scale down their operations on stop them completely, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost. Also, in some cases, ground handling equipment was abandoned at airports.

Now that airlines are able to resume some services, EASA says it is developing a set of rules relating to the requirements of Regulation (EU) No 2018/1139 (EASA Basic Regulation) for the provision of ground handling services under the EU Regulatory framework.

These rules have not yet been published, but EASA has issued the following recommendations, which it has emphasised are not yet mandatory.

Recommendation(s): An aerodrome operator, in order to ensure that the provision of ground handling services at the aerodrome is available and does not affect the safety of aerodrome operations, is recommended to:

  1. In case that a ground handling service provider has ceased/ceases operation or specific services are not provided, make this information available to aircraft operators by using all the available means of communication, including the possibility of issuing NOTAM.
  2. Depending on the State and in accordance with the National Regulatory framework in regard to the access to the ground handling market, liaise with the National Aviation Authority to ensure continuity of the provision of ground handling services taking into consideration the expected traffic demand.
  3. Ensure that unused or inoperative ground support equipment (GSE) is removed from areas that affect flight operations and aircraft servicing, and stored in a manner that it does not pose a risk to persons or aircraft in the vicinity (e.g. collision, FOD, fire, etc.). Designation of specific areas may be required.
  4. Coordinate and ensure the ground handling service provider has developed a return-to-operations plan.
  5. Require that the ground handling service providers have appropriately checked the GSE before it is returned to service by maintenance staff.
  6. Ensure that persons who are allowed unescorted access to the apron have received the required refresher training in regard to the safety and operational procedures on the apron in accordance with ADR.OR.D.017. Personnel should be briefed on any new or amended procedures.
  7. Not allow the operation of vehicles or equipment by any person who does not hold a valid apron driving authorisation or an equivalent in accordance with ADR.OPS.B.025.
  8. Ensure that newly hired personnel who are operating centralised aerodrome infrastructure facilities, such as boarding bridges, visual docking guidance systems, etc. are trained to perform the assigned tasks.
  9. Provide ground handling service providers details of any operational limitations at the apron and the use of centralised aerodrome infrastructure.
  10. Liaise with all ground handling service providers to ensure the establishment and implementation of local staff wellbeing programme.

More information is available at: https://www.easa.europa.eu/newsroom-and-events/news/provision-ground-handling-services-aerodromes-following-covid-19-outbreak