SJS Press January 2010

Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their fists high in the air during the 1968 Olympics after winnining medals in the 200 meter race. A mix of reactions followed including cheers, boos, and shrugging shoulders. What had gone down as one of the most confusing celebrations of the 20 century has come to light over 40 years later.

OlympicBrakesSetToday we know their victory salute was surely a show of respect to airline ramp workers across their great nation. It was a shout out to all those whose cherish the moment when they can signal "Brakes Set!" to their flight crew. The closed fist signals for the aircraft brakes to be set so the ramp crew can safely clear away. At the completion of a well executed push of a departing aircraft, a ramper can only feel a strong sense of accomplishment.

SJSDiddyThe closed fist symbol, beloved by rampers abound, has been misinterpretted and misused repeatedly since its introduction. Nowhere has this been more evident than in politics and the entertainment industry. The music artist and entrepreneur known as Diddy has made his brand with the ramp signal. You can see this in his Times Square billboard ad. Although he appears to be calling for the sale of fine clothing and vodka, others think differently. One onlooker observes "If you look closely, you can see that he is in fact in front of an airplane giving a brakes set signal." Whether Diddy is paying homage to ramp personnel or not is for the viewer to decide.

MorganFreemanBrakesSetOthers, such as Morgan Freeman, have been a little more forthright with the Brakes Set signal. A Hollywood insider suggests that Freeman becomes overly enthusiastic with it and sometimes gets carried away. "We all appreciate a good pushback," says the insider. "But he has to be reminded on occasion that less is more," referencing Freeman's ability to incite the action to others around him on movie sets.

OldSkoolBrakesSetPolitical movements such as the so called "Youth Movement" and its counterpart the "Old Movement" have taken the Brakes Set signal and made it their own. Always confused by their motives, the general public thinks nothing more of this than a hijacking of a respected ramper attribute. Even acknowledgement of the symbol as a sign for Brakes Set has not been able to add to these movements' credibility amongst most communities.

No matter how the Brakes Set signal is interpretted or used, rampers will always have it has their symbol of a job well done. One can only hope that future displays will show pride in rampers at our next airports of departure.


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