Creative Air Marshalling
It’s not often that aircraft marshalling hits the headlines but this video of ME1 Tan Wen Kai of the Singapore Airforce has gone completely viral.
Aircraft marshallers use hand-signals to communicate with aircraft on the ground, for example to give directions. It’s the equivalent of guiding someone into a parking space, except there’s not much use in yelling “Back a bit, back a bit, STOP!”
The Republic of Singapore Air Force updated their Facebook page after the video went viral to explain the context:
ME1 Tan Wen Kai executed his creative marshalling moves with one of our F-15SG, as part of a planned exercise segment during the recent Exercise Pitch Black held in Darwin, Australia. Creative marshalling is a tradition for many fighter squadrons and is deliberately scheduled into long exercises and during competitions to boost the morale of both the air and ground crew. Due planning and supervision are given to ensure that the creative marshalling is operationally safe. Play the video to check out what creative marshalling means to our flight line crew during our earlier Command competition Hot Shot!
Reddit, as usual, was fabulous about it:
Now that’s how you marshal an F-15
Ground, Eagle 1. We’re just waiting for Thriller here to finish busting a move. We’ll be good to go in about zero-three.
Marshal, try not to annoy the guys with missiles….
This thread has been linked to from elsewhere on reddit:
[/r/theydidthemath]How much fuel is burned by a F-15 fighter jet while waiting for the ground marshal to finish breakdancing?
The answer, by the way, is around six pounds of fuel, or pretty close to a gallon.
Air Marshallers have very clearly defined movements which they use to guide aircraft. Looking at the ICAO guide, it does look a bit like dancing:
The point is, although the marshaller may be having a great time dancing, creative marshalling isn’t confusing to the pilots, because the key movements are instructions which are clear if you know the code.
The RSAF video has reawakened interest in another marshaller, Dean Tabreham, who’s marshalling went viral in a video purporting to compare various nationalities marshalling practices in 2007. I have to admit, I could watch this guy all day long. But more importantly, it’s easy to recognise the marshalling signals within his dancing:
I wouldn’t want *my* marshaller to do this, because I’d be laughing too hard to park the plane. But I love watching them guiding other planes in.
In general, I found the marshallers on British airports amongst the very best. Even to the point that, if a situation could arise where the pilot could lose sight of the marshaller (e.g. making a tight turn), a second marshaller would be near the wingtip, within the pilot’s line of sight.
Marshalling itself was usually crisp and clear, very much “textbook”.
Marshallers going through the antics on this site should always bear in mind that some pilots may not understand what they are doing and misunderstanding the marshaller’s signs, hit something.
Who would be held responsible then ?
Of course, poor Pontius Pilot !
Fate works in strange ways. Was watching this with sound off (I’m only reading, after all) and the radio playing while I ingest some much-needed caffeine. And then the dj slips on an old R&B record-“Express Yourself”’by Charlie Watts. Perfect.