While the aircraft was moving backwards (targeting takeoff), a guy was attached to it by a thread, probably "listening" to something, and was following the plane by walking at the same pace.

That was at the FRA airport.

What is this guy doing exactly? Does this job have a name?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ "Fourth class ticket." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ "Taking the plane for a walk." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 6:52
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    $\begingroup$ That's the power cord for the engines. It's really, really long. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ that's simply a long headphone cable (exactly like your headphones, casques, at home) - to talk to the pilot $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


The person in the picture is part of the ramp crew (probably assigned a specific/specialized title varying by company) and he is in communication with the cockpit via an intercom system (the intercom connection is usually near the nose gear on the side of the fuselage but can vary somewhat depending on the type of aircraft). The "thread" referred to in your question is the communication cable that is connected to the ground/cockpit intercom system.

For example (there can be many variables), after the flightcrew assures that the all doors are closed by verifying the "door" lights in the cockpit are extinguished, receives a clearance for "pushback" (moving the aircraft away from the gate), the flightcrew will advise the ramp person on the headset that the aircraft's brakes are released and the pushback can commence (usually a tug will be pushing the aircraft back from the gate).

The ramp person on the headset will verify that the jetway or ramp stairs have been moved away from the aircraft, all vehicles (baggage carts, etc.) are clear and, at the appropriate time, advise the flightcrew that the area is clear and engine start can begin.

As the aircraft is pushed back (assuming that the aircraft was parked at a gate and needs to be pushed back), the ramp person with the headset will monitor the movement of the aircraft and usually be maintaining visual contact with "wing walkers," who are typically walking next to the wing tips and are ensuring that the area remains clear of vehicles, obstructions, etc.

Once the aircraft has been pushed back and aligned so that the crew can begin a forward taxi the ramp person will disconnect from the cockpit intercom system and move away from the aircraft.

The description above is a generalized example of a typical push back from a gate. There can be many variables (perhaps the aircraft is not at a gate, but instead parked on the ramp, or has to start an engine at the gate because the Auxiliary Power Unit [APU] is inoperative etc.). But, the coordination and procedures (and specific verbiage used between the ramp crew and cockpit crew) are typically choreographed precisely and written in the company's standard operating procedures (SOP's).

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    $\begingroup$ The "thread" in the OP's question is actually the headphone/mic cable running between the ramp crew's headphones and the jack on the side of the plane. It's what allows him to communicate directly with the cockpit crew of this plane and this plane only. No need to clog up the airwaves with yet another dedicated frequency, or worse, a frequency for each gate. He's holding onto it to ensure that he doesn't trip over it and that it doesn't get sucked into an engine. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan I agree. Does my answer not make that clear? $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ Just ensuring that it's explicit. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan it's unlikely the engine is running in this picture. $\endgroup$
    – frizzby
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ @frizzby: Agreed. Either they only started the engine on the other side (you only need one engine for taxiing anyway), or they will only start the engines after pushback. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 11:20

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