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Old 01-07-2014, 05:14 AM   #1
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Guiding an RV from the Ground - Aircraft Handlers Perspective

Now that I find myself in RV parks more and more. I have happened upon some and experienced not so experienced drivers that got themselves into a tight fix. I am envisioning the guy that took out a Grand Cherokee's A and B post this past summer from tail swing, or the elderly lady that cut the radius short and re positioned the mirror on the Fleetwood next door, or Robin Williams doing a six point turn in his "RV". Anyway, I have an instinct to lend a hand (butt'in in, gettin' in peoples bizness') when I think I can help out. The problem is with being neighborly is that by not knowing how communicate effectively with each other accidents can happen. I say that and I am the first to fall into that same trap. My wife still wants to use her own hand signals. I keep telling her that I can't make the motor-home go up. Anyway, this is where I think a perspective in how aircraft handlers practice their craft might make things a bit easier.

Just a little bit on my background. As a 16 y.o. high school Junior I worked for a Fixed Base Operator at RNO. This included operating fuel trucks, using tugs and a blue VW Microbus to tow aircraft to hangers and parking spots. From there I went in the Navy where I worked at two air stations and embarked on a sunny and lengthy cruise working on Connie's flight deck. From there, 27 years working in the Airport Rescue, Airfield and commercial airline fueling operations. I worked as, supervised and trained aircraft refuelers in how to operate 5 and 10k gallon jet fuel trucks around busy commercial airport operations and how to safely direct aircraft and other vehicles around confined and busy AOA's (Airport Operation Areas).

So, from my perspective and training this is how I would do it;

From the ground I would first do a walk around to identify any obstacles. If I have a second set of eyes on the ground they get positioned at the rear of the Motorhome or trailer combo and within my line of sight. They cover my blind spots and are my safety. During the move them or any one else observing the movement can stop immediately if anyone is unclear of something or there is a dangerous situation that they see or think they may see. Safety is the goal here.

When I am directing a vehicle, my directions to the operator are not to tell them which way I want them to go. I what my goal is is to tell them how to operate or drive the vehicle. "Sounds a little controlling if you ask me." Isn't that the goal? In essence the driver is my puppet and I pull his stings through simple hand signals to maneuver the vehicle. This is the same concept used by the Navy and once the hand signals or means and manner of communication are understood then safely moving the RV's is quite easy to implement. This is how very young and not quite old enough to drink plane handlers on the deck take control of positioning multi-million dollar aircraft around the carrier until its wheels leave the deck.

So with that concept I direct the vehicles operator in where to turn the steering wheel, set transmission (direction), and the speed. The way you do that is through simple hand directions. If I point my right/left hand towards the drivers left/right then they would turn the wheel in that direction. The severity of the angle of my arm will indicate the degree of wheel turn needed to move around the pivot points effectively. The opposite hand directs the direction and speed needed to accomplish the move safely and effectively. Crossing of the arms would indicate an immediate stop. If I am driving and my DW is directing she has a couple of other signals that she uses. One of which is where she repeatedly and with vigor pulls the right fist down away from a cupped left hand over and over with a scowl. It has something to do with removing my head from a tight place. Anyway, I hope I have generated some discussion here and maybe a bit of enlightenment.

Being new to the RV lifestyle I am not aware of any programs that teach this kind of communication and maneuvering vehicles in a simple, teachable and standardized way.

Good night!

Jeff/Diane, Retired Fire Capt. I.Y.A.O.Y.A.S.
2004 Winnebago Journey 39K on a Workhorse chassis w/ ISC 330, Allison 3000
2013 Honda Fit with Roadmaster Baseplate, BrakeMaster and All Terrain Falcon Tow Bar.
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Old 01-07-2014, 05:26 AM   #2
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Wow, pulling planes with a Microbus! Must have had a Porsche engine.

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Old 01-07-2014, 06:17 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by soricobob View Post
Wow, pulling planes with a Microbus! Must have had a Porsche engine.
Small aircraft
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Old 01-07-2014, 07:16 AM   #4
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I struggle with our "director" in 2 ways generally. First, staying someplace I can see her? ANYWHERE I can see her? The second is the concept regarding the fact the coach is 3 dimensional. This requires one to look UP on occasion?

I now do the requisite walk around prior to entering a site. This allows me to identify hazards, which are then explained to the director, as well as the approximate final location of the coach's back wall. Compared to our original attempts this system seems to be working fairly well?
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Old 01-07-2014, 07:58 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by ahicks View Post
I struggle with our "director" in 2 ways generally. First, staying someplace I can see her? ANYWHERE I can see her? The second is the concept regarding the fact the coach is 3 dimensional. This requires one to look UP on occasion?

I now do the requisite walk around prior to entering a site. This allows me to identify hazards, which are then explained to the director, as well as the approximate final location of the coach's back wall. Compared to our original attempts this system seems to be working fairly well?
You gotta be talking about my wife! Look up? What a grand idea.

We solved the problem by giving her a headphone set complete with microphone mouth piece and a set of laws.

Law #1: If I can't see you I Stop.

Law #2: If I see your mouth moving but I can't hear anything coming out of my radio, I Stop. (she keeps forgetting to push the talk button!).

Law #3: If you are talking so much I can't get a word in edge wise I Stop.

Law #4: If you see the neighbors and stop to talk to them while I'm trying to back up, I Stop.

She also has a stick the same length of the slide-out protrudes from the side of the coach. It's her job to measure the distance from the coach to that tree over there to keep me from getting to close. (gotta be careful with the stick idea here and make sure she doesn't get to close to you if she is frustrated).

Hand signals are confined to directing the coach. If she waves to the neighbors it can really screw things up if I am backing. She is trained to point to the direction she wants me to go. (one finger salutes are not an acceptable hand signal here). If she points straight down to the ground that usually means there is the cutest little flower growing "right here" and I had better not back over it or else!

But to train her to look up???? You gotta be kidding me. She is strictly a 2 dimensional person. Left and right, and backwards and forwards. Up is not one of her abilities.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:04 AM   #6
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I personally, don't want any help when I'm backing up and if you try to be neighborly and help it usually just ticks me off. I'm very careful and prefer to get outside myself and do a walk-around if I'm not absolutely sure what is around me.

I had an idiot in a KOA guiding me to my campsite in a golf cart that passed up the site (on a dead end road), then pointed BACKWARD at my pull-through site. "There it is, just pull in there." You've gotta be kidding? I had to unhook my toad and back everything up in the dark.

Usually, when someone tries to help, as you said, they stand where you can't even see them or use unintelligable hand signals that look like they're trying to land a UFO.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:02 AM   #7
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Who ever designed the rear camera and speaker made it a one way conversation back to front on our MH. When the spotter says "stop" or anything else it is not meant to be a discussion. Genious.

After our first attempt at backing some ten years ago we came to some agreements. No shouting, no swearing. Hand signals only, no fingers.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:02 AM   #8
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Between years of being my father's 'marshaller' for backing his truck and boat trailers, and then four years in the USAF moonlighting as a crew chief on the T-33A trainer (when I wasn't fixing the avionics and helping the electrical and hydraulic guys), I got the whole ground handling thing pretty down pat. Making the driver understand simple instructions.... that's a different story!

Just remember, as I had to make a young Second Looie understand once when he tried to go the wrong way down the taxi strip, until that plane is off the ground or that trailer/RV is parked, the Crew Chief is IN CHARGE!
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:13 AM   #9
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I'm of the same view at topdownman. I've been doing this since 1978. I know what I am doing and have a procedure that works. While it looks (to those helpful onlookers) that I am slow, I put the coach where it should be on the first try every time.

When assisting other coach owners, the first thing I do is ask if they want assistance. Yes or no is fine with me. I've watched the drivers who answer no, move boulders, ruin landscaping, run into all different kinds of trees, cars, rock walls, etc.

For those who answer yes, I explain the hand signals. I stay at the left rear of the coach. The coach is parked (day or night) correctly on the first try, every time. I do have and use the long rectangular bright signal lights so there is no question about what the driver should do.

There is, on occasion, a driver who says yes to accept help, then does not follow the hand signals. In this case, I am quick to politely point out I am the one who can get run over if he/she does not follow my signals. This results in compliance or I no longer provide assistance.

For back in sites, the signals are very simple. The signal lights point which way the rear of the coach is to go. One light is always vertical. The other light points the direction. Two lights in parallel means straight. Two lights crossed means stop.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:16 AM   #10
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She's always in charge.

Thanks for some of the "funnies," as I got a good chuckle from them. Especially the fist coming down from the left hand. I can relate to that.

As stated, thank you Winni for the rear camera and one-way microphone, however some times I wish I could "talk back," but then that would ruin an otherwise good day.

I did have to remember that "Whoa," means "Stop."
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Old 01-07-2014, 10:59 AM   #11
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Doesn't make any difference who comes over to help, neighbor, park ranger, resort representative. The only person I pay any attention to is DW. We use hand signals only, I don't use the audio or even bother to look at the rear camera. If something needs to be said she will stop me, or I will stop, and she will come to the drivers window, no shouting.
As some one else mentioned, if I can't see her I stop. The only time I didn't I managed to crunch the rear ladder. An expensive reminder to follow my own advice.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:12 AM   #12
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The best method for the DW to signal me is with the two-way radios. Never had a miscommunication yet.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:48 AM   #13
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I like the stick idea for the slides, but I think I'll make mine out of those foam pool noodles. They won't hurt when I'm bopped in the head!
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:58 AM   #14
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Here is the very BEST method for communicating between driver and ground helper.

See this link.

About RVing - RV LifeStyle - RV Travel Full Time RVing - RV Maintenance - RV Repair

Ron Jones, the author of this web site is a friend of mine who with his wife put on seminars all over the country.

There is also a ton of very useful information on his web site. I would suggest bookmarking it for future reference.

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