Emergency Hand Signals to Pilots

Emergency hand signals to pilots from the Aerodrome Fire Service or other ground personnel.

The latest CAA guidance is contained in IN-2013/003: Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (RFFS) Communications - Standard Emergency Hand Signals to Flight and Cabin Crews.

Pilots should be aware of four important hand signals that might be given by the Aerodrome Fire Service, or in the case of the first signal also by other ground personnel such as marshallers, in the event of an aircraft fire or other emergency.

Ideally, the primary method of communication will be via the headset or radio (121.6 where available) but in the absence of these, pilots should be familiar with these hand signals.

BALPA advises that cabin crew should also be familiar with them in the event of flight deck incapacitation.

Emergency hand signals to pilots from the Aerodrome Fire Service or other ground personnel are reproduced below.


Signal from Aerodrome Fire Service (or other ground personnel, for example marshallers) to warn of fire on the aircraft:

This signal is NOT contained in the CAA guidance referenced above, but crews should be aware of it as it is an ICAO signal.

To Warn of Fire on Aircraft Move right-hand wand in a "fanning" motion from shoulder to knee, while at the same time pointing with the left-hand wand to area of fire.

(Might also be a rapid horizontal figure-of-eight motion at waist level with either arm, pointing at the source of fire with the other arm).



Signals from Aerodrome Fire Service to Pilots concerning Evacuation:

Recommend Evacuation 1. Recommend Evacuation

Evacuation recommended, based on the Incident Commander's assessment of the external situation.

Arm extended from body, and held horizontal with hand upraised at eye level. Execute beckoning arm motion angled backward. Non-beckoning arm held against body.

Night - same with wands.


Recommend Stop 2. Recommend Stop

Recommend evacuation in progress be halted. Stop aircraft movement or other activity in progress.

Arms in front of head - Crossed at wrists.

Night - same with wands.


Emergency Contained 3. Emergency Contained

No outside evidence of dangerous conditions or "All Clear".

Arms extended outward and down at a 45 degree angle. Arms moved inward below waistline simultaneously until wrists crossed, then extended outward to starting position.

Night - same with wands.


Pilots who operate from, or might divert into, military airfields are recommended to study the NATO marshalling and other hand signals.  Many of the important signals are the same as in civil aviation but some, for example the evacuate/abandon signal, are different.


CAP 637 the Visual Aids Handbook is a compendium of Visual Aids intended for the guidance of Pilots and Personnel engaged in the handling of aircraft. We recommend that you review this document on a regular basis.

ICAO signals are reproduced in the skybrary.

(Updated/Reviewed 04.06.13)