Understanding Aircraft Marshalling Signals

Airports · 5 min read · Sep 14, 2021
aircraft marshalling


When journeying through the air from one location to another on an aircraft, you see someone on the runway ground making hand signals to the aircraft where to land and how to make such a safe landing. This act is called Aircraft Marshalling, and the person on the ground making these hand signals to the aircraft is a Marshaller. However, don’t confuse them with air marshals, who are law enforcement officers flying together with passengers. 

There are hand signals, lights, and hand wands that are chief in the art of aircraft marshalling. These are primarily taught in a course on aviation or aircraft marshalling. Hand signaling is a significant part of the profession and must be learned to align with the 2021 internationally acceptable standard. 

Marshaling signals, from the course, provide help to avoid accidents when an aircraft, through its pilot, moves from its parking stand, flight, or landing on the runway area or ground, bringing the plane to a stop without any incident. It gives support to the airport tower in executing the instructions.

An aircraft marshal signaling a large military aircraft at a military airbase.
Image source: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5783960/maintenance-marshal

How do you become an aircraft marshaller? 

It is pretty straightforward to write about how to join the profession, but it might not be that easy to take on that profession, especially in 2021. To become an aircraft marshalling professional in 2021, you need to graduate from high school. Without a high school certificate, you cannot apply for the specialized course in aircraft marshalling. 

To take on this profession, you would have to pass an aircraft marshalling course to learn about Civil aviation regulations, Ramp safety requirements, aircraft marshalling signals, the type of vest needed, etc. The 2021 course content and structure provide the 2021 international standard required for aircraft marshalling. 

You would also have to familiarize yourself with the aviation section by working with a group in general aviation services. It would boost your experience in the aviation/aircraft marshalling sector. Some technical skills are needed, such as the operation of the radio, driving the follow-me vehicles, etc.

Handling the tools necessary with the aircraft marshalling sector is vital as only efficient handling of these tools is accepted. This service is essential as the aviation industry generally identifies and only deals with highly-rated equipment care because accidents are usually fatal. 

What is the importance of aircraft marshalling and body signals? 

Several persons would love to ask how vital aircraft marshalling is to the aviation industry and also in the year 2021. While the duty of the traffic warden or traffic light is related to a marshaller as all make signals, the services the marshallers are responsible for are more. 

With the marshallers orange or yellow vests, helmets, earmuffs, hand wands, etc., they make many visual signals to aircraft pilots on directions to take. Such signals as slowing down, turning, stopping, shutting down engines, and sometimes examining engines. The marshaller signals to keep the aircraft moving to its parking stand or runway area. They also drive the follow-me vehicle to direct the plane to where it is needed to be.

Other functions of the Aircraft Marshaller

The aircraft, while in the air, cannot just land on the ground during its descent. It needs the aircraft marshaller on the ground to position as a signal to know which of the runways to land in and which hangar it will stop. If there are issues on the runway area or obstacles on the ground, they must keep away those obstacles and create a clear view of the runway for the aircraft.

While the pilot may communicate with the tower, there must be constant communication between the marshaller and the control. It needs its support to give the proper visual instructions to the pilot. In some instances, they carry out series of standard checks, requested in 2021, when an aircraft lands on an airport and has disembarked its occupants. Pilots also learn the marshalling signals as a means of communication with the marshaller.

The service done by the marshallers cannot be overemphasized. They perform their services, ensuring an aircraft’s safety and that of its occupants, the ground, and the ramp before a flight and during landing. You might ask, why do the marshallers learn all these? From a particular course drafted to make them professional and enable them to perform these services.

Maintenance team marshal is signaling a C-5 aircraft for takeoff at a military airbase.
Image source: https://www.pope.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/242123/43rd-aircraft-maintenance-squadron-airmen-marshal-c5/

Is aircraft marshalling hard? 

A direct answer to this question might be tricky. Aircraft marshalling can be fun and also time-consuming, especially in 2021. It is fun because you have to deal with unique colors, and direct the movement of the aircraft. You also get to carry out functions that allow you to save or preserve the lives of the aircraft’s occupants. Nevertheless, aircraft marshalling is tasking. It is not an easy feat as you have to attend special training or take a particular course. You have to be well versed in the visual signals, print and learn the aviation rules and regulations, ramp safety regulations, etc.

The course content is quite tasking as perfection is vital in the learning, especially the hand signals given to the aircraft’s pilot. Where marshallers mix up their body signals and their service poor, its result might spell doom for the plane, hence, the need to be top-notch in practicing those body signals.

Contents of the IATA Course

You can apply for the particular relevant course on aircraft marshalling with the IATA on its website page or another training company. This course from these companies, which may be in English or another language, may take a lot of time or hours and require financial commitments, but the result is that they share skills necessary to excel in this profession. A limited and related free course is available on the IATA website menu.

To perform well, you have to perform basic marshalling based on the 2021 international standards, have good communications skills, take time to know your marshalling signals, and use them efficiently to promote safe operations in the ramp and emergencies. 

These learnings from the IATA site page or another site may seem cumbersome, but they provide the requisite skills needed to excel in this profession.

How much do aircraft marshallers make? 

It is a question many people who plan on taking a course on aircraft marshalling are interested in as the financial prospect, and returns of the profession are important. 

From a quick search on the internet, you would discover that the service is not for free, and the average annual returns of the profession, especially in 2021, in the United States, is quite impressive. 

An aircraft marshal with protective gear and air marshalling wands is directing and aircraft.
Image source: https://www.ramstein.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1291384/ramstein-airmen-take-on-night-ops-in-romania/

The price rate is competitive in many cities as these professionals are in high demand. Salaries are as high as $100,000. There are several categories of a marshaller, and these categories pay differently.

On the search in 2021, you discover that the job is in high demand, with San Francisco, California paying the highest in the United States. San Francisco pays an annual average of $53,844, which is almost $10,000 above the national average. The requirements for a marshaller are on its website.


You have to be great at your work, know your hand signals very much, see a great prospect in the job, and you are good to go. The time to learn aircraft marshaling is now.

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Aeroclass Team
A team of professionals with a deep passion for the aviation industry bringing you the newest and the most striking industry-related news and content.

1 comment

  1. Celestine Ndubuisi Agbodike says:

    Good write up. Keep it up. I am an aircraft marshaller myself, with 20 years work experience, based in Nigeria, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Nigeria.

    Keep the good job you are doing, keep promoting the profession.

    I look forward to any job opportunity in US one of these days, by God’s grace. I have my masters degree and series of Aviation trainings. I’m a core Operations Airfield Officer with a good track record.

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