Hand Signals Used In Aviation

carrier yellow shirt ramp signalerHave you ever heard the old saying; “It’s easy enough flying there but the hard part is finding your way once you’re on the ground”?
Thankfully there are men and women on the ground who’s job it is to help. The military, airlines, and general aviation ramp personel all use the same basic hand signals to communicate taxi directions to you. It makes no difference if it is daytime or nightime, the signals are the same but at night lighted wands are used instead of hands or unlit wands.
You may or may not know what the aviation hand signals are or what they mean so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the different signals that are in use…
Aviation Hand Signals
All Clear
Start Engine
face me
Face Me
Taxi Forward
Taxi Slower
Turn Right
Turn Left
Set Brakes
cut engine
Cut Engine
chocks in
Chocks In
chocks out
Chocks Out
There’s more hand signals in use but if you remember some of these basic ones you’ll be “good to go!”
cleared to go

WWII Silent Wings

Glider Pilot WingsCG4-A manualDuring World War II if you wore these wings and studied from this manual then chances are good that you were a glider pilot. Approximately 6000 men were trained to be glider pilots and the letter “G” on the wings was said to stand for “guts”, and perhaps it’s a joke but in reality the life expectancy of a glider pilot in combat was only 17 seconds.
Life Expectancy of Pilots in Combat:
Bomber Pilots………..1 hour, 46 minutes
Fighter Pilots…………………..19 minutes
Glider Pilots……………………17 seconds
It’s no wonder that these men were known as “gutsy”. Every landing in combat was a do-or-die situation, they had to land a heavily laden aircraft full of soldiers and equipment in unfamiliar fields often in total darkness. They were the only aviators during WW II who had no engines, no parachutes, and no second chances!
Glider troopsThe original plan by the Army was to use existing power trained pilots in the methods of soaring gliders with the promise of graduating them to the rank of staff sergeants (if they were below that rank) but eventually all were awarded the rank of Flight Officer. In practice however, due to the shortage of pilots, offers were also made to enlisted men with no flying experience at all.

Early in 1941 pilots were sent to various existing civilian glider schools in the western United States where thermal conditions were great for soaring flights but soon it was realized that troop gliders were not like sailplanes but, rather, low-performance trailers that had to be towed to a point almost directly over the landing area. As a consequence, sailplane training was abandoned as soon as sufficient quantities of CG-4A’s were available for troop glider training. Several advanced training bases were established in the midwest but a major percentage of glider pilots were graduated from South Plains Army Air Base at Lubbock, TX.

Glider tow(Waco CG-4A Glider being towed by a C47 at Bowman Field [KLOU], a training base in Louisville, KY 1943)
The Waco CG-4A
Waco CG-4A
Glider CG4-A interiorThe Waco CG-4A, is an externally braced high-wing monoplane of 83-feet, 8-inch wingspan capable of carrying a useful load of over 3500 pounds. The cargo compartment can be directly accessed by raising the hinged nose section of the fuselage. This affords clear access to the cargo compartment (72″ wide x 65″ high) through which may be loaded rolling cargo, such as a Jeep, 75mm howitzer, ammunition boxes, crated engines, or similar bulky cargo. The cargo compartment can also provide seating for 13 fully equipped combat troops.
Two pilot’s sit in the cockpit side-by-side each having a full set of controls with the exception of brake pedals, which are found only on the left hand side. Flight controls are conventional with trim tabs controls provided for all surfaces, and in addition there are spoiler controls to aid in descents.

Designed by the Waco Aircraft Company, CG-4A flight testing began in May 1942, and eventually more than 13,900 CG-4A’s were delivered. There were 16 prime contractors constructing them during the war.
Factory Glider buildingThe wings and tail group are constructed of wood and plywood and covered with fabric doped directly to the plywood skins. (They are braced externally with steel tubing.)
The fuselage consists of a rectangular welded steel tube frame with a plywood floor, and the entire structure is then faired and covered with fabric. There are two main entrance doors located on each side of the fuselage at the rear of the cargo compartment and two triangular emergency doors located at the forward end. All doors are jettisonable for emergency exit.
The conventional landing gear employs spring-oil shock absorbers in both the main and tail gear units. Hydraulically operated brakes are incorporated in the main gear and the solid rubber tail wheel is full swiveling and self centering.

Gliders waiting
Specifications CG-4A

• Crew: 2
• Capacity: 3,500 lb, 13 troopers, or quarter-ton truck (Jeep) and 4 troopers, or 6 litters
• Length: 48 ft 8 in (14.8 m)
• Wingspan: 83 ft 8 in (25.5 m)
• Width: 7 ft 0 in (Fuselage)
• Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.7 m)
• Empty weight: 3,900 lb (1,719 kg)
• Gross weight: 7,500 lb (3,400 kg)
• Max takeoff weight: 7,500 lb (3,400 kg)


• Maximum speed: 150 mph IAS “…due to the possibility that windshield panels may blow in and other failures may occur.”
• Cruise speed: 73 mph (64 kts)
• Stall speed: 49 mph (43 kts)
• Wing loading: 8.81 lb/ft²
• Landing run: 600-800 ft (180-244 m)


In Conclusion:
There aren’t many surviving Waco gliders left today. The helicopter has replaced the mission that the gliders performed during World War II with greater efficiency and dependability but many thanks goes out to the brave men that flew (and rode) in the gliders of yesterday!

Here is a movie about gliders in WWII if you want to see it: Silent Wings – The American Glider Pilots of WWII