How to Do Aircraft Marshaling Hand Signals

Written by gus stephens
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How to Do Aircraft Marshaling Hand Signals
Air marshallers use hand signals to guide aircraft on the ground. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Aircraft marshaling signals are used by ground personnel at airports to communicate with pilots. These hand signals convey directions to guide the aircraft in and out of gates as well as instructions relating to engine and brake status and other functions. The marshal stands directly in front of the aircraft in view of the pilot. During night operations or other conditions of low visibility, marshallers perform the signals holding illuminated light wands. A set of basic aircraft marshaling signals is standardised by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Additional signals apply to specialised military uses such as aircraft carrier operations, and still others are specific to particular airline companies.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Raise one hand in the air with thumb pointing straight up to tell the pilot, "Affirmative" or "I understand."

  2. 2

    Hold one arm out with hand below waist level and thumb pointing down to tell the pilot, "Negative" or "I do not understand."

  3. 3

    Raise both arms vertically over your head with palms facing inward to instruct the pilot to "come this way." It is the same signal football referees give to indicate a touchdown.

  4. 4

    Hold the right or left arm straight down and cross the other arm over it pointing in the direction of the of the next marshaller to direct the pilot to proceed to the next marshaller.

  5. 5

    Hold both arms straight down with palms flat towards the ground and move both arms up and down several times to instruct the pilot to slow down.

  6. 6

    Point the right arm straight down and repeatedly move the left arm up and back to direct the pilot to turn left. The speed of the left arm movement indicates the rate of turn.

  7. 7

    Point the left arm straight down and repeatedly move right arm up and back to direct the pilot to turn right. The speed of the right arm movement indicates the rate of turn.

  8. 8

    Lift both arms up and hold slightly apart with palms facing backward. Move arms upward and backward repeatedly to instruct the pilot, "Move ahead."

  9. 9

    Raise both arms over your head with open palms facing the pilot. Close both hands into a fist to signal "Brakes on" during daylight operations. At night raise both arms over your head holding light wands, then cross the wands over your head to signal "Brakes on."

  10. 10

    Raise both arms over your head with both hands clenched into fists. Unclench both fists and show flat palms to pilot to signal "Brakes off" during daylight operations. At night hold crossed light wands crossed over your head, then uncross the light wands to signal "Brakes off."

  11. 11

    Cross both arms over your head with palms facing forward to tell the pilot to stop.

  12. 12

    Hold both arms down with fists closed and thumbs extended outward. Move both arms outward to signal the pilot, "Chocks removed."

  13. 13

    Hold both arms down with fists closed and thumbs extended inward. Move both arms inward to signal the pilot, "Chocks inserted."

  14. 14

    Raise your left hand overhead with fingers extended to indicate the number of engines to be started. Wave your right hand at head level in a circular motion to signal the pilot, "Start engines."

  15. 15

    Hold both arms straight down and hold either the left or right palm down and move it up and down to signal the pilot to slow down engines on either the left or right side.

  16. 16

    Raise either hand and draw it level across throat to instruct the pilot to cut engines.

  17. 17

    Make a horizontal figure of eight gesture with one hand at waist level while pointing with other hand in the direction of the fire to inform the pilot, "Fire!"

Tips and warnings

  • During night operations, perform signals while holding light wands.

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