Ground support equipment (GSE) is essential for safety and efficiency at small, regional, and international airports. At larger airports, they would come to a shutdown without GSE. Only at the smallest airports is it possible to get by with minimal GSE, but support equipment is convenient.
Sourcing from reliable suppliers needs to consider several factors. Suppliers need to have quality GSE from regulatory-compliant manufacturers. Your supplier needs competitive pricing, an informed customer service team, and a wide selection of purchase options. When you select, ensure the vendor has equipment that matches your aircraft.
Support Equipment’s Essential Tasks
Towing aircraft for any distance is complex at best by hand. Small single-engine planes can move with hand tow bars. A small electric motor tow bar combination suits many pilots. But, for larger aircraft at busy airports, power-on parking and moving near terminals becomes dangerous. Operators will use a tow bar attached to an airport tractor.
Cargo and baggage handling move with tractors pulling a series of carts. At the aircraft, baggage is often stowed by hand, but many GSE options exist. Refueling aircraft is most commonly done with qualified operators driving fuel trucks. Deicing trucks is important for safety in adverse conditions.
There are many types of GSE involved with maintenance and repairs. Aircraft need towing to hangers where they may need lifting, and in major repairs, they will need lifting off the ground and have jack stands placed.
Larger aircraft often need electrical power during stopovers. This requires a generator attached to a trailer with qualified operators. The amperage, phase configuration, and voltage must match the aircraft. Connectors must match the aircraft, as well.
Ground support for airlines and airports is expensive but essential. Airline companies and airport operators are driving GSE innovation. On the horizon, and already at major hubs, GSE automation of towing, baggage, plane washing, and more occurs.
Smaller aircraft companies, like regional airlines, charter providers, and aircraft service providers, face significant expenses as automation continues. The competition will drive new investments in GSE at regional and major airports. The importance of sourcing with reputable GSE vendors increases. Much of the GSE at small airports and for small planes will not come under automation soon, and most GSE will be non-automated well into the future.
Choosing a Supplier
Reputation is important; the best way to know a reputation is to network with peers at other airports. Research to ensure the supplier meets all performance and safety standards and asking for compliance documentation is okay. You want to seek suppliers who provide technical support and are transparent. Again, seek out peers for information.
Pricing is the bottom line, but don’t sacrifice quality. The easy part is the vendors have websites that display pricing. The quality of your research helps you make objective decisions.
Attending industry trade shows can deliver good insights. GSE suppliers compete for customers, and you can meet the representatives who will answer questions in real-time. Contact suppliers directly for quotes and questions. There are online reviews, and you can learn about what others think. Take these reviews with a grain of salt; customers may have unrealistic expectations or grudges. You will find reviews from industry associations are more reliable.
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The best way to know if major equipment is appropriate for your use is to rent. Consider short-term leases or buying and compare all three options. Ground Power Units, tugs, fuel trucks, repair/maintenance tools, and cargo handling equipment are online for rent, lease, or sale. For example, rent power units if needed only temporarily. Lease or buy power units for a busy season.
Ground Support Equipment
GSE is essential for efficiency, convenience, and cost savings. Any airport company needs everything from hand tools to heavy-duty service vehicles. At major hubs, airlines may have their own GSE service. Smaller charter companies, regional airlines, and private pilots often use airport services.
If you have a hand with GSE purchases for your organization, your decisions must be tempered between quality, quantity, and price. Suppliers need to be scrutinized for support, customer service, and reputation. Your choices affect the business; make your choices well.