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After a pushback I saw the operator of the pusback truck standing next to his truck and showing the pilots a "thumbs up" with his right hand. In his left hand he was holding something up. It looked like a key or some kind of cotter.

I could imagine that it is some kind of part that he could only have if he really is clear from the plane and didn't forget to disconnect something.

Am I right? Is this some standard procedure? If so, what was he holding?

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    $\begingroup$ From the title in Hot Network Questions, I thought this was going to be a pushback operator being the cause of delays, not physically raising an object in his hand. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Aug 10 '15 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa I actually had to look that up because I'm a non native speaker and to me it sounded like that too. Also: it was on hot questions? That's the second time I made it and both were on aviation. Sweet :D $\endgroup$ – André Stannek Aug 10 '15 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa Fixed it for you. $\endgroup$ – Aron Aug 11 '15 at 13:06
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It's a steering bypass pin which isolates the nose wheel steering and enables the tug to turn the aircraft.

The operator holds it up so that the captain can see it to confirm that it has been removed.

This Wikipedia article refers to it

On some types, there may also be a "downlock" pin which prevents the nosewheel gear from retracting whilst the aircraft is on the ground. In this case, the captain is looking for 2 pins being held up. More often though, the ground lock pin(s) are removed before pushback and stowed onboard.

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  • $\begingroup$ Allright, that's pretty much what I thought. I actually read that Wikipedia article last week after the flight but somehow missed that part. It was really late though ;-) Thanks! $\endgroup$ – André Stannek Aug 10 '15 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder how many aircraft have taxied straight into the green after pushback until this procedure was invented :-) $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Aug 10 '15 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ The last sentence mention ground lock pin stow on board. How is it put in place after landing? Pilot climb down and hand it to engineer? $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Aug 10 '15 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ The downlock pins are not normally fitted. They are only fitted during maintenance and when towing without hydraulic power. The ground crew are responsible for fitting them and removing them, and a tech log entry to that effect must be made. The flight crew simply check that they are in the stowage as part of the pre-start checks. They would be very obvious during the walk-round anyway since they have long red flags attached with "remove before flight" printed on them. $\endgroup$ – Simon Aug 10 '15 at 17:30
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As you do not provide a photo, I have to speculate, but I do not see many options.

The operator was probably holding the connector that allowed him/her to speak with the pilots, at the end of the pushback the connector is disconnected and the thumbs up is given to confirm the all clear to the pilots (no verbal communication is possible at this point).

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  • $\begingroup$ Sounds plausible. It could have been that connector although I didn't see much of a cable. I was not quick enough to take a photo :-( $\endgroup$ – André Stannek Aug 10 '15 at 12:44

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