From time to time I see a picture or hear a bit of information about Ramp Towers, but it never seems to tell me much. I am wondering what is a ramp tower? What they do? and who does it(job, ie dispatchers, pilots or other)?
Ramp tower is a controller (or a couple of controllers) who control the traffic going into and out of a concourse and gates at some airports. The middle of the concourse is not usually controlled by the ground so the airlines have their own staff who controls this area, so there is a not a mess of airliners not know how is coming or going.
In Miami American has their own ramp tower controllers i believe and in Detroit Northwest has their own ramp controllers. They arent FAA, they work for Northwest. That all depends on the airport as well. Hope this helped clarify.
We've got our own ramp controllers in MCO, ATL (not all though), DFW, CVG, SLC, JFK and LAX (I think).
The problem with one of the ramp guys in DFW ("Mr. Verbose") is the fact that he talks too damned much.
We'll call clearing the active to confirm which gate and spot assignment we have and he'll do somehting like "Oh, hi Delta 1234, if you're on the east side, plan for spot 46, but if you're on the west side, ask ground control for spot 53, when you get to the gate, the aircraft terminates so go ahead and give us a call with the fuel remaining onboard, apparently the continuation of your flight heads out of gate 13 and that aircraft should be on the ground in another 28 minutes, oh yeah, the ACARS says they're in range as we speak...blah blah blah".
Usually I just listen for the gate and spot number and leave the guy talking to himself.
Here's how it all works at ORD (Chicago O'Hare) as a United Express goon.
Signature runs the ramp tower for the -F and -G gates in Terminal 2 at Chicago-O'Hare, and United has their own ramp tower for the -E gates and the entire Terminal 1 (B&C gates.) Basically they control movement on the ramp because there are so many aircraft pushing back, parking, and taxiing at the same time. Ramp gives you clearance to push back from the gate and lets you know which line you should taxi on when you are on your way in/out of the ramp area. Each ramp control is located in its own little ATC tower on top of their respective terminals.
After ramp, you talk to metering which is like calling ground at a normal airport with your location and that you are ready to taxi. Metering has you monitor the ground frequency and when ground calls you with instructions, you just repeat the runway and your call sign and start rolling. God help you if you call ground and tell them you are ready to taxi, they will make you suffer the wrath!
Sometime while you are taxiing, ground switches you to tower and you either wait your turn in line (not usually more than a couple of minutes since we have the world's best controllers) or, if there is no line, they call you and clear you onto the runway before you get there. Once again, you dont call the tower and tell them you are ready to go, they just call you when you are next up in line.
I know the question was just about ramp towers, but I figured I would throw in the big picture of how the ramp fits in with the rest of the operation at the world's busiest airport. (Eat my shorts, ATL, haha) It is a bit overwhelming the first couple of times, but when you get used to it, our system is a very efficient pilot-controller machine that gets a lot of airplanes off the ground in as little time as possible.
As far as staffing goes, I don't know.....I heard once that some of the ramp controllers are retired FAA controllers from Chicago.
Maybe try Signature (I don't know what division) or my UAL Airbus pilot pal here at the craspad says it might be Flight Ops Support at United if you wanted to work for UAL. They are not FAA-employed controllers to the best of my knowledge, and the ones who work the United ramp tower are UAL employees.