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Ramp or airport cargo handling supervisors oversee the work of ramp agents in commercial, private and military airports. They direct the loading and unloading of cargo or baggage into aircraft, ensuring adherence to relevant aviation laws and regulations. Although airlines and airport authorities are the primary employers of ramp supervisors, opportunities are also available in independent air cargo handling companies.
Using the Skills
Ramp supervisors need strong analytical and personnel management skills to analyze work orders, determine the amount of work available and effectively assign tasks to the cargo crew. Planes typically follow a strict time schedule, so these supervisors need excellent time management and planning skills to ensure cargo is loaded onto or unloaded from a plane within a specified time limit. Ramp supervisors also need strong computer skills to use aircraft cargo-handling software and basic math skills to calculate load weight capacities for various planes.
Directing Cargo Handling Activities
The primary task of ramp supervisors is to manage the day-to-day cargo operation of an airport. They usually begin by instructing baggage handlers to transfer cargo from the storage area to the loading area. They then might oversee the sorting of cargo according to size, weight or shape, before directing the handlers to load the pieces of sorted cargo onto the plane. Ramp supervisors ensure execution of these activities in accordance to aviation safety laws and airport procedures. For example, they must inspect cargo, identify dangerous goods and make sure they are properly packaged, in adherence to the Federal Aviation Administration’s hazardous materials regulations.
Training Cargo Personnel
Ramp supervisors train baggage handlers -- especially newly hired ones -- on the airport or airline's occupational health and safety guidelines, emergency procedures and other relevant subjects. They can do so on-the-job or organize individual or group training sessions. During busy periods, the supervisor may recommend that the airport or airline hires more baggage handlers to expedite cargo operations.
Other duties may include educating passengers on cargo handling procedures and supervising the repair and maintenance of cargo handling equipment.
Experience as a ramp agent and formal training are the typical requirements for becoming a ramp supervisor. A number of colleges offer associate degrees in airport operations management, which can enhance your prospects of landing this job. The International Air Transport Association also offers short cargo operations courses that can improve your competence.
With vast supervisory experience and a bachelors' degree in airport or aviation management, you can qualify for employment as an airport manager.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airport cargo handling supervisors earned an average annual salary of $48,970 in 2013.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors
- Federal Aviation Administration: Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
- Broward College: Aviation Institute: Airport Operations Management Associate in Science Major Code 2105
- International Air Transport Association: Air Cargo Operations Oversight for Airports (Classroom, 4 days)
Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.
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