Aircraft marshalling

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Aircraft marshalling is visual signalling between ground personnel and pilots on an airport, aircraft carrier or helipad.


Marshalling is one-on-one visual communication and a part of aircraft ground handling. It may be as an alternative to, or additional to, radio communications between the aircraft and air traffic control. The usual equipment of a marshaller is a reflecting safety vest, a helmet with acoustic earmuffs, and gloves or marshaling wands–handheld illuminated beacons.

At airports, the marshaller signals the pilot to keep turning, slow down, stop, and shut down engines, leading the aircraft to its parking stand or to the runway. Sometimes, the marshaller indicates directions to the pilot by driving a "Follow-Me" car (usually a yellow van or pick-up truck with a checkerboard pattern) prior to disembarking and resuming signalling, though this is not an industry standard.

At busier and better equipped airports, marshallers are replaced on some stands with a Visual Docking Guidance System (VDGS), of which there are many types.

On aircraft carriers or helipads, marshallers give take-off and landing clearances to aircraft and helicopters, where the very limited space and time between take-offs and landings makes radio communications a difficult alternative.

U.S Air Force procedures

Per the most recent U.S Air Force marshalling instructions from 2012, marshallers "must wear a sleeveless garment of fluorescent international orange. It covers the shoulders and extends to the waist in the front and back. [...] During daylight hours, marshallers may use high visibility paddles. Self-illuminating wands are required at night or during restricted visibility."[1]:14

Marshallers like other ground personnel must use protective equipment like protective goggles or "an appropriate helmet with visor, when in rotor wash areas or in front of an aircraft that is being backed using the aircraft's engines." It also prescribes "earplugs, muff-type ear defenders, or headsets in the immediate area of aircraft that have engines, Auxiliary Power Unit, or Gas Turbine Compressor running."[1]

Noise exposure

Excessive noise can cause hearing loss in marshallers, either imperceptibly over years or after a one time acoustic trauma.[2] In the United States noise limits at work are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Aircraft signals

Aircraft signals vary slightly among the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Standardization Agreement 3117, Air Standardization Coordinating Committee Air Standard 44/42A, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signals. the US Air Force generally follows ICAO guidance if its guidance conflicts with FAA, ICAO, or NATO documents.[1]:15 The ICAO defines numerous important codes for use in international aviation.[3]

Helicopter signals


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 U.S Air Force Flying Operations and Movement on the Ground Flight Rules and Procedures. AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 11-218, 28 October 2011, Incorporating Change 1, 1 November 2012, 89 pp
  2. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) FAA Webtraining Environment Human Factors Awareness Course, n.d., accessed 7 January 2015.
  3. CAP637 Visual Aids Handbook; CAA; Issue 2, May 2007; Chapter 6, page 10, Table E

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