On Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14th, Michel Côté from Vintage Wings Canada warmly welcomed about twenty people into a conference room at the Gatineau Airport Terminal. The room was a bit small for the enthusiastic group who braved the cold weather and snowstorm, but the training was very interesting and that inconvenience was quickly forgotten.
Aircraft marshalling is a vital part of all fly-in events and air shows. These men and women in bright orange vests direct aircraft on the ground to their parking spot or display area. As in all aviation operations, safety is the first and foremost concern.
Reading through all the pilot training books, I remember wishing never to encounter an aircraft Marshaller because I felt there were so many signs, and I was concerned whether I would remember them all. Michel Côté warned us that they, as marshallers at different events, have encountered many pilots that were puzzled with their hand gestures. For example, some come directly at the marshal, instead of going where they are directed. Human reflexes I suppose. The propellers should always be in your mind, to stay well clear!
After this training, I realize that there are not so very many signs used with light aircraft, and that air marshallers are a happy bunch of people who have the safety of pilots, passengers and the public in mind. They will find a way to be understood, in a patient way, or sign you to stop so they can push you to your destination spot on the ground.
Spring will soon be at our doorstep (or wingtip!), and this knowledge will come in handy if you are planning on flying to an aviation event. Here are the most useful signs, while taxiing a light aircraft.
If you would like to see the aviation world from a privileged, up close point of view, contact your local airport or flying club to volunteer as an Aircraft Marshaller, for one event or for the whole flying season. Judging by the number of times “…and we have a lot of fun” was said at the training, I can’t imagine it otherwise.