News: ‘Pinch Point’ signs protect drivers, aircraft
Story by Gina Randall
RAF MILDENHALL, United Kingdom - A portion of South Perimeter Road on RAF Mildenhall is in close proximity to Taxiway Bravo and is known as the “pinch point.” For safety purposes all vehicles are required to stop at posted signs and check for aircraft. These vehicles must remain stationary until any aircraft taxiing or being towed have cleared that small stretch of road.
When drivers do not heed the requirement to stop, look and wait, their actions pose a risk not only to themselves, but the lives of the aircrew on the aircraft.
“The majority of drivers along Perimeter Road adhere to the signs at the pinch point. Occasionally we see an individual stop and then immediately proceed without checking to see if an aircraft is taxiing or being towed along the parallel taxiway,” said Lt. Col. Heather Baldwin, 100th Operations Support Squadron commander.
The reason why vehicles must stop in these kinds of situations is explained in an Air Force Instruction. Per the AFI, aircraft cannot taxi within 25 feet of an obstruction without someone walking along the wing and ensuring it will not strike the object. At the pinch point, cars are within 25-feet of an aircraft that is on the parallel portion of the taxiway.
For everyone’s safety, all drivers must follow the rules. Impatience is never a reason to risk the lives of others.
“Most drivers don’t want to wait longer than they have to, so some drivers proceed forward the instant the aircraft departs the area (even though they should still be waiting),” said Staff Sgt. Koert Lyman, 100th Air Refueling Wing Ground Safety technician from Eastham, Mass.
Some drivers may think they can outrun an aircraft, which is highly discouraged.
“At the other end of the spectrum, some people will race the aircraft to the pinch point so they can go before the aircraft gets there,” Lyman said.
People may think that they’re saving a few seconds and can get where they need to go sooner. But what they don’t think of is how their actions could affect others.
“The wings of large aircraft overlap into the road, which is dangerous for vehicles at the pinch point,” Hill said.
Should the driver of a vehicle drive past the pinch point without checking for an aircraft, there could be a collision. As well as endangering lives, this could also have a real-world mission impact, putting a valuable plane out of action.
The 100th Security Forces Squadron has a clear message for road users — violations put the aircraft at risk and won’t be tolerated.
“The 100 SFS enforces violations of the Installation Traffic Instruction, Mildenhall Instruction 31-218, (which) states ‘A2.3.4. Failure to Obey Perimeter Road Control Lights/Signs.’ Anyone who fails to stop for a red perimeter control light or fails to make a complete stop for the Taxiway Bravo/South Perimeter Road stop signs will be guilty of an offense. This is a four-point citation,” said Maj. Jeffrey Adams, 100th SFS commander.
The 100th SFS assesses points against base driving privileges which could result in a suspension of one’s driving privilege for up to two years, depending on the number of points accrued and the period of time.
“We encourage all members to read the ITI and comply with all regulations within,” Adams said.
The potential safety issues are clear when people think about the size and speed of aircraft. Aircraft can’t stop as fast as a car, so pilots must implement emergency stops to avoid hitting someone who didn’t wait for another few minutes.
“The implications are multimillion-dollar damage to aircraft, as well as personal injuries to occupants of vehicles who may be struck by aircraft or affected by jet blast,” Lyman said.
According to Hill, there is one thing to remember when driving in the pinch point area or any other location near aircraft: taxiing aircraft have the right of way over all other vehicles on or around the airfield.