Working Around Aircraft
General Operational Safety Guidelines
During a NASA Airborne Science Mission, participants will be working at the aircraft
home base or mission host facility. There are some generally accepted rules, guidelines
and pointers for working at an aircraft facility that everyone should remember and follow.
These rules and guidelines will apply to all Airborne Science Missions managed by the
Earth Science Project Office (ESPO).
Mission General Guidelines and Safety Refresher
If you have never worked on an aircraft, in or around a hangar or on a military base
before, these “Dos and Don’ts” may not be familiar to you………..or, they may have
slipped your mind!
Following is a list of the most generally applicable ones. The ESPO will modify/add to
these as necessary for each individual mission and post them on that mission page. Also,
ESPO may hold an Orientation session when you first arrive at the facility. If so, you will
receive an Orientation Package that will have pertinent information for working in the
host facility. Common sense is your best friend. If you don’t know what is safe….ASK.
AIRCRAFT - WORKING AROUND / ON AN AIRCRAFT
CREW CHIEF/MISSION MANAGER (aircraft point of contact)
These are the “owners” of any aircraft involved in one of our missions.
Nothing is done in, on or around an aircraft without notifying one or both
There is NEVER any access to an aircraft without the Crew Chief or his
deputy’s knowledge and approval. That means that if you arrive at a
brilliant solution to your instrument problem or just now remembered that
you have to fill that dewar or pull that card and you find there is no Crew
Chief around to give you permission to touch the plane, you will have to
wait until he or someone he designates is there!
This rule applies to any aircraft, not just “our” mission aircraft. If there are
other resident or transient aircraft in the hangar, don’t touch or approach
these aircraft without permission from their crew.
If you have an urgent situation and cannot contact the Crew Chief or
Mission Manager, talk to someone in the ESPO. Pay Attention To The:
“Prop Arc”……..DON’T walk through it! Even if there is no power on the
Engine Intake……..............DON’T lean on it or hold onto it or lay things
down in it!
Ground lines………DON’T trip over them or pull them loose!
Leading edges, Wing tips, Protruding antennas, Probes, “Remove Before
Flight” Flags……these are all things waiting to put bumps on your
Skin and structure of the aircraft itself…….if you happen to be
pushing a cart or an instrument or a tank of gas or carrying
something ( a ladder? a pile of boxes? ) that can put a dent or a
gash in an airplane………Please ask for assistance!
Pay attention to where the crew are and what they are doing, they also
need to have access to the plane!
“FOD” - Foreign Object Damage
This is the term for any object that can cause damage to a plane, a person
or anything else by being sucked into an engine, blown by an exhaust or
a prop-wash OR by getting lodged somewhere in or on the aircraft. That
means not only out on the hangar floor or the aircraft ramp but in the
cargo spaces, equipment bays, instrument pods OR in the cockpit!!
So, when you are working around the plane, remove jewelry, hats, glasses,
pocket protectors, pens, pencils, tools, I.D badges, change…..in short,
anything loose, in or out of your pockets or hanging on you.
It also means if you see something lying on the floor or around the plane,
Please pick it up and put it away or dispose of it properly!
When you are working in a NASA hangar during an integration or a
mission, there are stringent “Tool Use Policies” in force to protect the
aircraft. Any tools that are not instrument specific and are needed for use
on an aircraft or in the hangar by the instrument teams, must come from a
designated tool chest and must be logged out and in. If a tool is discovered
to be missing when an inventory is done, all aircraft in the hangar could be
grounded until the tool is located.
Your instrument specific tools also will need to be accounted for and that
procedure can be obtained from the Crew Chief or Mission Manager.
When we are at a non-NASA facility, the same care must be taken to track and account for tools. Please read the section on “FOD” above.
HANGAR - WORKING IN AN AIRCRAFT HANGAR
This is the host facility person responsible for everything that goes on in
the hangar. The Project Office is the mission liaison to this manager and
all interface with him should be done through ESPO.
Access to the hangar for our mission participants is arranged prior to the
mission between the ESPO and the Airport or Base Management, it is not
necessarily the provision of the Hangar Manager.
Hangar access at any airfield has always been limited but now is much
more heavily restricted and controlled. Access is for mission participants
only and any exceptions must be arranged through the ESPO.
Don’t touch them or move them without the crew.
FIRE LANES, ACCESS ZONES, CAUTION ZONES
On the floor of a hangar you may see red or yellow painted lines
describing areas of caution and aircraft towing and parking lines:
“Fire Lanes” and areas in front of power panels and chemical cabinets
must be kept free of any obstructions.
Sometimes our mission hangar is shared with resident or other transient
aircraft. Aircraft tow and park lines may be used by mission or
other aircraft and should be kept clear.
There are almost always power lines, grounding lines, communication
lines, possibly air lines lying across the hangar floor. If they will remain
for more than a few minutes, they should be covered by a metal, plastic or
wood cover to prevent tripping. Please ask for assistance from the crew or
SHIPPING / RECEIVING
A Shipping/Receiving area may be set up in the hangar by ESPO to
accommodate the daily shipments common during a mission. You will
need to check this area every day and remove anything that has arrived for
your group so the pile doesn’t build up.
A shipping crate storage area may be set aside by ESPO to handle your
crates and boxes when they are empty. Do not allow shipping materials to pile up in the hangar except in designated areas, especially in fire lanes!
Mission participants are not allowed to drive powered vehicles of any kind
inside a hangar without permission from the ESPO.
Again, “FOD” is any object that can be blown, dropped or projected into
a person or aircraft (or anything else) to cause damage. Within the
confines of an aircraft hangar that usually means something dropped on
the floor or left on a surface.
If you see anything that fits that bill, pick it up and find out who it belongs
to or where it goes.
GASSES/CRYOGENS/HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES (WMD????)
Training: All those who use these types of substances should be properly
MSDS Sheets: This info must be available just like in your home lab.
Whether you ship your supplies from home or have them delivered
from a local vendor, make sure you have it.
Protection Gear: When you are handling gasses or cryogens you must
have the proper protection gear for doing so. Anyone who handles
these items knows what gear is required. Face shields, gloves,
Storage must be treated with the same care as at your home lab. ESPO will
have arranged hazardous storage.
PERSONAL PROTECTION GEAR
Closed-toe shoes are always required when working in an aircraft hangar.
No sandals or bare feet ever……….even in the tropics! (OSHA?)
There are usually earplugs available to those participants working around
the aircraft. If there aren’t, get your own and use them. It doesn’t
take long for engine noise to ruin your hearing.
You should have safety glasses available when your work requires them
but it is also a good idea to have them whenever you are around
aircraft. Not only is there prop-wash and engine blast from our
own aircraft but there are always others moving around the area. In
addition, airfields are windy places with lots of dust, dirt and
fumes blowing into and through the hangar.
If there are problems here, contact the ESPO. EMERGENCY CALLS
Find out how to call for emergency help……..it will probably be in your
No smoking is allowed in any aircraft hangar, EVER. There are usually
designated areas set up for smoking somewhere outside the hangar away
from the aircraft ramp. Don’t assume you are in a smoking allowed area.
Before you take any photos inside or outside an aircraft hangar (digital or
otherwise), find out if they are permitted. This is imperative on a military
base in this day and age but often required even at commercial facilities.
Some facilities will not allow cameras at all. The ESPO will have made an
agreement with the host facility regarding cameras and taking pictures.
Access to the ramp, the area outside the hangar doors, and the flight-line is
strictly controlled at any airfield, commercial, private or military. The
ESPO will have made an agreement with the host field regarding access to
the ramp and flight-line. Find out what it is and stick to it.
In general, no one is allowed on the ramp or beyond unless they have the
permission of a Crew Chief or ESPO. A special badge may be required.
Mission participants are not allowed to drive powered vehicles of any kind
Onto the ramp without permission from the ESPO.
Yep, again! If you see something, pick it up!
Yep, again! Before you take any photos inside or outside an aircraft
hangar (digital or otherwise), find out if they are permitted. This is
imperative on a military base in this day and age but often required even at
commercial facilities. Some facilities will not allow cameras at all. The
ESPO will have made an agreement with the host facility regarding
cameras and taking pictures.
Smoking is never allowed on a ramp, in an aircraft, or on the flight-line. LAB
The spaces assigned for “lab space” are almost always SHARED.
The ESPO arranges the space assignments, power, phones, network, tables
and chairs. If there are problems, contact ESPO.
Keep Equipment from stacking up in front of exits and entryways.
Always post hazard signs appropriate for associated equipment hazards
Have to be documented, contained and handled just as in your home lab. .
If you have dangerous chemicals or gases make sure you understand the
hazards, post signs and let your neighbors know the dangers.
Aircraft hangars by their locations and openness are always plagued with
birds, bugs and animals. If you have food in the lab and don’t keep it in a
refrigerator, you and all the others in your space will probably soon have
bugs and mice and maybe worse. Often we have the use of refrigerators in
the hangar but if not, you might lock it in a cooler. And please clean it up
If we are working at a military base there will be very strict entry
procedures, at the main gate and possibly the hangar. You will be told
about these procedures before the mission begins and will probably have
to furnish personal information in order to be allowed entry. You may be
issued a special badge to allow you access to the base and/or certain
Even at commercial and private airports, entry procedures are much more
stringent that in the past. They must be followed or you will be denied
There may be facilities on the base or airport that we are given permission
to use. Please follow any rules for their use that the host sets out for us.
MILITARY HOUSING If we are using a military base and are allowed military housing, there are
very strict regulations that must be followed or you will be asked to leave.