November 30, 2021
Staff shortages accelerate safety concerns both inside and outside the aircraft.

Resurgence of Air Travel Poses Increased Risk for Ramp Agents

While the number of passengers traveling by air in the US is nearly at pre-pandemic levels, the issues caused by a lack of staffing are approaching a near-crisis point. For example, a number of airlines have reported a specific shortage of ground service workers. The employee shortfall is forcing longer wait times, flight delays and other schedule impacts affecting workers, airlines and passengers. The worsening problem has forced the recent cancelation of thousands of flights at major airlines widely covered in the media. In addition, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers reports that staff shortages have left airline workers overworked and exhausted. Compounding the cost of delays and cancellations, this also accelerates safety concerns, both inside and outside the aircraft. It especially affects ramp workers who load and unload thousands of pounds of baggage and cargo daily, increasing the risk of injury and, in many cases, time away from work. TISABAS was designed to address these types of safety and operational concerns for ramp agents. By mechanically moving baggage, the need to throw heavy luggage, mail and cargo the length of the belly is eliminated. This substantially reduces time and operational costs of loading and unloading and, most importantly, provides a safer work environment for ramp crews. buddies, and before long, those few minutes were enough for the ravens to greedily rip holes in the boxes and steal bites of the tasty treats inside.

This meant unanticipated scheduling on the duty roster. We had to post someone on the line to keep the ravens away.

Although I wish I could say that the "Scare Raven" idea came to me immediately as a solution, that is not how it happened. There was a mechanic who, for some reason, could never be found when he was needed. On a whim, I cut out a person-shaped profile from cardboard and dressed it in his coveralls. We had great fun with it --- the cutout would show up everywhere reminiscent of, "Where's Waldo?" One day, when it leaned against a pallet of fish, we made a discovery: it kept the ravens away.

As with any innovation, it needed further refining. Scare Raven was quickly modified to 2x4 construction and mounted to a pallet. The coveralls were stuffed, and a popular costume mask was added as its head. It continued to work amazingly well for several years until an airline captain mistook it for a marshaling agent. Thankfully, damage to the aircraft was narrowly averted.

Scare Raven went into retirement based on management mandate. Fortunately, it had been long enough, so the ravens had given up and moved on to easier scavenging. As ravens are clever, we assumed it was only a matter of time before they returned to try again, and I had several ideas in mind when that happened.

Just this year, they did return. And now, there is a new contemporary Scare Raven to do the job. In thinking about the story, it reflects what we do at Ramper Innovations every day: idea, modifications, and continuing improvements to solve problems, adapt to changing needs, and provide superior outcomes.

Thanks to the inspiration provided by ravens.

"Where's Waldo," – credit: Martin Handford, creator

November 5, 2021

We realize an innovative idea is only the beginning. The real challenge is transitioning from idea to reality.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash/Matt Ridley

Inspiration, Ideas & Innovation

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

Sometimes inspiration and innovation come to us in circuitous ways. Although I don't necessarily think of myself as innovative --- I tend to reserve that term for someone like Sergey Brin or Richard Branson -- there are many things that motivate me, whether it's for small tasks or for the bigger demands which keep me moving ahead to accomplish longer-term goals.

Even though this was my perception, I began to notice something. In conversations, people often responded with comments, such as, "That's a really great idea!" or "It's clever. How did you ever come up with that?" "Wow. That's an innovation you could take to market."

That's when I realized it's simply part of how we do business at Ramper Innovations. We didn't think what we did every day was especially out of the ordinary, but others did. And, subsequently, it's one of the reasons we chose the name for our company in its earliest days.

We also realized that an innovative idea was just the beginning. The real challenge was transitioning from idea to reality in a way we could benefit the most people while, at the same time, improving processes. This was followed by producing a practical, affordable model that could be easily adapted to multiple settings.

That's what we do at Ramper. Because innovation --- most especially, practical innovation --- is our heartbeat, and it's how we operate every day. We decided to share some of our most fun, interesting innovative moments with you. These will come from a broad range of settings. We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing your own stories of innovation.

Inspiration, Ideas & Innovation

Blog

December 28, 2021
Airline employees get the work done, even on Christmas day, with patience, flexibility and good cheer. Add staff in preparation for the holiday season.

 

Shortage of Ramp Agents and Flight Schedules

For the past several months, air carriers have frantically attempted to add staff in preparation for the holiday season and avoid a reoccurrence of the summer flight delays and cancellations. With 14.3% fewer US airline employees in October than before the pandemic, shortages of staff occurred throughout the industry, including pilots, customer service employees and flight attendants. This already tenuous situation took another hit last week as the volume of holiday travelers exploded at the same time a growing number of employees were quarantined or on sick leave due to COVID.

Ramp agents are pivotal members of the airline team and the impact of too few rampers is equally devastating to flight schedules, especially as baggage volume grows with the customer increase. To fill the positions, airlines are taking aggressive steps to attract candidates including United’s $5000 signing bonus for ramp agents in hard hit markets and Spirit’s 30% increase in wages for the job.

Non-monetary steps are also underway, for example, automating the traditional manual loading and unloading process through TISABAS, our affordable compact motorized folding conveyor. In addition to making the ramp agent job easier and lowering the risk of injury, TISABAS allows airlines to load more weight in less time while reducing damage to baggage and equipment. These factors also enable an increase in the percentage of on-time departures, a fundamental KPI in airline operations.


December 21, 2021
Airline employees get the work done, even on Christmas day, with patience, flexibility and good cheer. Photo courtesy of British Airways.

 

Airline Employees: We Appreciate You

 

The holidays are a stressful time for many of us. Those pressures are even greater for airline staff with the increased demands of the job including moving heavier loads and navigating bad weather. Although the season is challenging even in optimal circumstances, this year it has been compounded by understaffing, increased safety protocols and unruly passengers.

Yet the work gets done, even on Christmas day. It is notable that this is also an exceptional time of giving by the airline teams. We wish to commend airline staff for their patience, flexibility and commitment to care for travelers and for each other. That care continued even with the accelerated pressures of 2021.

Although the examples are too numerous to fully describe, here are a few based on personal experience: senior staff without young families take shifts for fellow employees that have small kids. Others open their doors to flight crews on layover to visit their homes for a holiday meal. Yet other employees help by offering boarding to pets in transit.

John is such a person, someone I know well. He worked at the airport and also drove the shuttle, taking people from the airport to their hotels. John regularly invited flight crews on layover to join his family for Christmas dinner. One year, bad weather caused a plane to divert to our community on Christmas. A storm made it impossible to continue on. John discovered what happened, showed up at the airport and invited the stranded passengers to his home. That year, John’s dinner table was filled to bursting with 10 crew members on layover and 20 more grateful travelers from the cancelled flight. That action truly demonstrates the meaning of the holidays. And, although these examples are acts of kindness and caring at Christmas, airline employees make it happen every day, 12 months a year, often unnoticed.

To airline crews everywhere from the Ramper Innovations team: our sincere appreciation and gratitude to you at the holidays and all year round. We couldn’t do it without you.


December 15, 2021
I fully understand the challenges of the ramp agent job. I was a ramper for more than 38 years.

 

Ramp Agent Injuries: My Personal Journey

By Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

 

At Ramper Innovations, we are passionate about finding ways to make the physically-demanding job of loading and unloading aircraft safer and easier for ramp agents. This commitment launched the creation of TISABAS, our compact motorized conveyor system that mechanically moves baggage and cargo in the belly. We believe safety is so important that it is part of every product conversation as we continually look for ways to protect vulnerable backs, knees and shoulders from injury. At the same time, we seek to make the job of loading and unloading more efficient.

I fully understand the challenges of the ramp agent job. I was a ramper for more than 38 years and personally experienced the problems and the pain. My first back injury – one that required time away from work --- occurred after only 6 months on the job when I was 18 years old. Before this injury, like many 18-year-olds, I thought I was invincible. That was the day I realized I was not.

Following that incident, job time losses began to accrue due to more back issues. I was not overly concerned until the day I was unable to hold up my foot. The severity of the injury finally hit home. It was time to investigate surgery which seemed unavoidable.

I woke one day and, although still in pain, could miraculously lift my foot again. Although many years have passed, I continue to deal with the impact of the injuries today. Pain is consistent even when doing simple tasks such as getting out of the car or standing up from a chair. Two shoulder surgeries were also necessary to repair the damage caused by twisting and throwing heavy luggage and cargo the length of the belly, exacerbated by the low-clearance environment. Needless to say, quality of life has been severely impacted by the initial injury at age 18 plus the cumulative physical stresses from years in the job.

My situation is not unique. When thinking about the many ramp agents with whom I’ve worked with during my career (and there have been a lot), there is only one who did not have an injury. That is an astonishing percentage even in my limited sample. At Ramper Innovations, we’re committed to reversing those statistics and helping ramp agents be injury free. We’re motivated by it every day.


December 8, 2021

Ramp Agents Talk About the Stress of Their Jobs

Manually loading and unloading baggage in a plane’s belly is an extremely demanding job. Handling thousands of pounds of cargo when constrained by low clearances is not only exhausting, it brings significant injury risks when heavy objects are thrown the length of the aircraft belly. Backs, already under the strain of lifting and twisting, are especially in jeopardy.

In recent posts on Core77 and Reddit, ramp agents commented on the stress of their jobs:

  • "Not uncommon to load over 200 bags and thousands of pounds of mail and freight in a flight --and your flight can't be a minute late…”
  • “Literal back-breaking work…”
  • "I'm in my 40's and did this job in my 20's and my back is still jacked as are my knees…"
  • “Repetitive stress injuries…”
At Ramper Innovations, we understand the pain as we’ve done the job ourselves for over 30 years. This provided the inspiration for TISABAS. Our affordable, compact motorized conveyor system mechanically moves baggage and cargo the length of the aircraft. It was designed to make ramp agent jobs safer, easier and more efficient, while at the same time, reducing time and operational costs of loading and unloading. Ramp agents, help is on the way.
November 30, 2021
Staff shortages accelerate safety concerns both inside and outside the aircraft.

 

Resurgence of Air Travel Poses Increased Risk for Ramp Agents

While the number of passengers traveling by air in the US is nearly at pre-pandemic levels, the issues caused by a lack of staffing are approaching a near-crisis point. For example, a number of airlines have reported a specific shortage of ground service workers. The employee shortfall is forcing longer wait times, flight delays and other schedule impacts affecting workers, airlines and passengers. The worsening problem has forced the recent cancelation of thousands of flights at major airlines widely covered in the media.

In addition, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers reports that staff shortages have left airline workers overworked and exhausted. Compounding the cost of delays and cancellations, this also accelerates safety concerns, both inside and outside the aircraft. It especially affects ramp workers who load and unload thousands of pounds of baggage and cargo daily, increasing the risk of injury and, in many cases, time away from work.

TISABAS was designed to address these types of safety and operational concerns for ramp agents. By mechanically moving baggage, the need to throw heavy luggage, mail and cargo the length of the belly is eliminated. This substantially reduces time and operational costs of loading and unloading and, most importantly, provides a safer work environment for ramp crews.


November 18, 2021
Boeing 707-349C N32 (Photo courtesy of Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association)

 

Commemorating Innovation in Aviation

This week, we’re celebrating a round-the-world, pole-to-pole flight led by retired TWA pilots, Harrison Finch and Fred Lester Austin, Jr., in November 1965. The journey covered a distance of 26,230 miles during a flight duration of 57 hours and 27 minutes. They flew an aircraft named, “PoleCat,” a new Boeing 707-349C, leased from the Flying Tiger Line. The crew of 11 included 3 additional pilots, 3 flight engineers and 3 navigators.

In addition, there were 27 passengers onboard. One of those was Colonel Willard Rockwell, Sr., founder of the Rockwell Corporation, who covered the majority of the flight’s expense. Newly-developed navigational equipment from Litton Systems and Collins Radio was also deployed on the flight.

Thank you to ThisDayinAviation.com for reporting this historic achievement, demonstrating one of the countless risks and innovations in aviation that has formed the foundation for the industry today.


November 15, 2021
Working in a stooped position created 32% more stress on the back than kneeling, increasing the likelihood for injury.

   

Stooping vs. Kneeling Accelerates the Risk of Injury to Ramp Agents

The need for ramp agents to lift, twist and throw heavy bags when loading and unloading aircraft manually accelerates the risks of back injury. It also increases operational expenses due to workers’ comp claims, medical treatment, time away from the job and turnover.

In some types of aircraft, these stressors are compounded as agents stoop while performing the loading or unloading task because of low clearance in the belly. A German study showed working in this position escalated the possibility of injury with the stooped task identified as the most strenuous from 9 motions measured. Additional research revealed that working in a stooped position created 32% more stress on the back than kneeling, increasing the likelihood for injury by a corresponding factor. Implementation of mechanical aids was identified as the best solution outside of redesigning the aircraft to create more headroom.

With TISABAS, baggage and cargo are mechanically moved in the belly, eliminating the need for agents to throw heavy bags, mail and freight the length of the aircraft. It also allows agents to kneel, rather than stoop, when working in low clearance environments.


November 9, 2021
Sometimes ravens provide inspiration for new ideas.
Photo courtesy of Sitka Chatters.

 

Inspiration Often Arrives Unexpectedly

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

Most innovation comes from identifying a need and pondering ways to fix it. This innovation was purely the result of a practical joke.

During much of my career, I worked as a ramp agent in a small fishing community in Alaska. Millions of pounds of fish left the tiny airport annually as cargo in the bellies of 737s. I loaded a good portion of it.

There is one jetway at the airport with the cargo warehouse nearby, and pallets of fish boxes were staged at the line with a forklift. It usually took only a couple of minutes, but that was long enough. At some point, a wily raven figured out that the boxes had excellent eating inside. This was fresh cold water Alaskan seafood, after all. Mr. Raven (for the purpose of this story) told his buddies, and before long, those few minutes were enough for the ravens to greedily rip holes in the boxes and steal bites of the tasty treats inside.

This meant unanticipated scheduling on the duty roster. We had to post someone on the line to keep the ravens away.

Although I wish I could say that the "Scare Raven" idea came to me immediately as a solution, that is not how it happened. There was a mechanic who, for some reason, could never be found when he was needed. On a whim, I cut out a person-shaped profile from cardboard and dressed it in his coveralls. We had great fun with it --- the cutout would show up everywhere reminiscent of, "Where's Waldo?" One day, when it leaned against a pallet of fish, we made a discovery: it kept the ravens away.

As with any innovation, it needed further refining. Scare Raven was quickly modified to 2x4 construction and mounted to a pallet. The coveralls were stuffed, and a popular costume mask was added as its head. It continued to work amazingly well for several years until an airline captain mistook it for a marshaling agent. Thankfully, damage to the aircraft was narrowly averted.

Scare Raven went into retirement based on management mandate. Fortunately, it had been long enough, so the ravens had given up and moved on to easier scavenging. As ravens are clever, we assumed it was only a matter of time before they returned to try again, and I had several ideas in mind when that happened.

Just this year, they did return. And now, there is a new contemporary Scare Raven to do the job. In thinking about the story, it reflects what we do at Ramper Innovations every day: idea, modifications, and continuing improvements to solve problems, adapt to changing needs, and provide superior outcomes.

Thanks to the inspiration provided by ravens.

"Where's Waldo," – credit: Martin Handford, creator


November 5, 2021

We realize an innovative idea is only the beginning. The real challenge is transitioning from idea to reality.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash/Matt Ridley

Inspiration, Ideas & Innovation

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

Sometimes inspiration and innovation come to us in circuitous ways. Although I don't necessarily think of myself as innovative --- I tend to reserve that term for someone like Sergey Brin or Richard Branson -- there are many things that motivate me, whether it's for small tasks or for the bigger demands which keep me moving ahead to accomplish longer-term goals.

Even though this was my perception, I began to notice something. In conversations, people often responded with comments, such as, "That's a really great idea!" or "It's clever. How did you ever come up with that?" "Wow. That's an innovation you could take to market."

That's when I realized it's simply part of how we do business at Ramper Innovations. We didn't think what we did every day was especially out of the ordinary, but others did. And, subsequently, it's one of the reasons we chose the name for our company in its earliest days.

We also realized that an innovative idea was just the beginning. The real challenge was transitioning from idea to reality in a way we could benefit the most people while, at the same time, improving processes. This was followed by producing a practical, affordable model that could be easily adapted to multiple settings.

That's what we do at Ramper. Because innovation --- most especially, practical innovation --- is our heartbeat, and it's how we operate every day. We decided to share some of our most fun, interesting innovative moments with you. These will come from a broad range of settings. We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing your own stories of innovation.


International GSE Expo Wrap-Up

International GSE Expo Wrap-Up

When I first arrived in Las Vegas for the International GSE Expo I was feeling more than a little apprehensive as I am a small fish swimming with some very large fish.

I kept remembering what a mentor had said to me, “You have an amazing and practical product and the world needs to know about it”. The International GSE Expo was exactly the place to start bringing TISABAS to the world.

My confidence from being involved with AeroInnovate and the EAA Airventure show also helped combat my feelings of apprehension.

Thanks to everyone that came to our booth and the positive feedback they gave us.  It didn’t take long for that feeling of apprehension to be replaced with a feeling of pride.

So much so that when Power Stow, the company that has thus far set the bar solving the issue of safely loading narrow-bodied aircraft, referred to me as their major competitor, I took it as a compliment. And I had a good chuckle when one of their team members won the $100 in fresh frozen Alaska seafood.

The three days went by in a blur and I wish there was more time to get to know those who stopped by my booth to introduce themselves and learn more about TISABAS.

I’m still getting a lot of encouraging feedback from our post-event emails. We’re getting a lot of interest from International companies and many emails from people saying they liked my product and wanted to be kept in the know as I continue to bring TISABAS to the world.

In case you missed being at GSE Expo with us, here’s a clip announcing the winner of our fresh frozen Alaskan seafood giveaway.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yf-ux_rz91s

 

 

Innovative Technology Saving Backs and Baggage

Innovative Technology Saving Backs and Baggage

Most passengers do not understand the physical demands it takes to push their 50-pound suitcase up and down the narrow belly of a plane. They often hear and feel the “thump, thump, thump” of baggage being moved off and onto the belly of the plane and often worry whether or not their baggage and belongings will arrive unscathed.

Worker loads the luggage in the plane. Airport ground staff.

A ramp agent’s duty is to move a 50-pound bag to the back or front of the belly of the plane without causing much harm to themselves or the baggage. Space is so tight ramp agents can’t stand up, forcing them to work on their knees. The stress of moving a bag 35-feet is hard enough but to do it on your knees is stressful on agents’ backs, shoulders, and arms.

Baggage handling is a physically demanding job and leaves many ramp agents with lifelong injuries. These injuries can cost ground service companies millions of dollars every year in worker’s compensation claims. However, it isn’t simply a ramp agent’s injuries airlines and ground service companies need to be worried about; additional costs are accumulated by airlines when a passenger’s baggage is damaged during the loading and unloading process.

Damage to aircraft may cause a delay or cancelation of a passenger’s flight. The time it takes for ramp agents to load and unload baggage can result in passengers waiting for their baggage longer, causing them to miss a connecting flight or an important meeting upon their arrival.

TISABAS or Tim Saves Backs is the answer to helping ease the stress of ramp agents, damaged baggage and passengers missing important connections.

This innovative technology is an expandable and collapsible ramp conveyor that reaches the length of the belly of the plane. This new technology offers many benefits to ground service companies, ramp agents, airlines, and passengers.

  • It allows stress to be relieved on the ramp agent’s knees, back, and legs as they use the conveyor belt to simply move baggage to the back and front of the plane.
  • The ramp conveyor can be folded up making it easier for ramp agents to fill the plane.
  • Customers will no longer hear or see their bags being tossed around.
  • Airlines will be able to provide a better work environment for ramp agents with no lifelong injuries.
  • The cost of worker’s compensation for airlines will diminish with TISABAS.

The cost of TISABAS outweighs the lifelong cost of ramp agents’ injuries and customers’ damaged bags. With TISABAS ramp agents will have a healthier and happier work environment which in turn will help passengers have a smaller wait time and no worry of missing important connections or the process of filing a claim for damaged baggage.