On the Job: Life on the Ramp

When it comes to planes, bags and snacks, workers on the tarmac keep everything moving

By Jeff Martinelli

Published December 2, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


An occasional series on the people who keep Pittsburgh International Airport running

At first listen, it seems Scott Williams is a cargo hold-full of contradictions.

One moment he’ll show you his “office” of almost three decades, but in the next he’ll tell you he’s never worked a day in his life. One truth, however, becomes almost immediately clear: Scott Williams loves his job.

As a ramp gate lead for Southwest Airlines, the 54-year-old Williams compares himself to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After all, he’s responsible for keeping ramp operations at his gates humming right along.

But watch Williams and his team at work and you may be more likely to compare him to the conductor of an orchestra, making sure each section is moving in sync toward the safe but efficient boarding and departure for every flight.

“My responsibilities are to assure that aircraft is loaded correctly, the bags are scanned, and that my co-workers know how to load the plane properly,” said Williams, who lives in nearby Coraopolis. “Additionally, I’ll communicate with our Operations (department). Our Ops lets our agents know the weights of the bags and relay them back to our crew, so that the plane can be loaded correctly.”

Scott Williams started his aviation career with US Airways and began working for Southwest Airlines at PIT in 2005. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Many people who work in the industry will say this job is in your blood. Williams is proof of that. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began working on the ramps outside of the A Concourse for US Airways in the late 1980s.

Shortly after 2001, Williams realized that US Airways faced an uncertain future. Eventually, he landed at Southwest and, after a brief stint in at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, found himself back at PIT shortly after the airline began operations here in 2005.

“It’s funny,” said Williams, standing on the ramp just outside of gate A-7 and looking across the airfield. “I worked the A gates when I was with US Airways. You could say this has been my office for most of the last 30 years. When I get some downtime, I catch myself looking for deer at the edge of woods.”

Those breaks are few and far between, he said. And when asked about the most memorable and rewarding moments on the job, he doesn’t hesitate.

Like a Steelers fan rattling off Super Bowl-winning years, Williams recalls the huge snowstorms that had a major impact on airport operations. “1993, 2001, 2010,” he says, smiling.

But don’t try telling Williams that was hard work. Remember, he’ll tell you that he doesn’t work at all.

“We try to have fun out here,” he said “Southwest says, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to be safe, and we’re going to work hard, but let’s have fun too.’ I love my job. There is one thing I realized when I got here is that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

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