Ground Support Equipment ( GSE ) is vital for your ground operations at airports, small and large. Almost every activity supporting aircraft depends on GSE for moving aircraft, cargo, passengers, and more.
From small hand tools to tow tractors, GSE ground support is the lesser-known aspect of airport operations, but without it, getting aircraft off the ground would be difficult at best. Your aircraft needs fuel, staging for flight, moving for repairs, placement in hangers, and lifting for major repairs.
Aircraft Mobility and Cargo Loading
Power-on movements become increasingly dangerous the larger the aircraft. Towbars can be hand-operated for small single-engine aircraft. For twin-engine and jet aircraft, a towbar with a powered tractor, often called a tug, is easily moved. Regional airlines may have their own GSE and ground crews. It is common to move aircraft from gates to flight staging areas to hangers for repairs or maintenance.
Cargo, including baggage, needs to be quickly loaded and unloaded. Specialized GSE can load and unload hands-free in many cases. A tractor will pull a string of small trailers to the aircraft where cargo may be hand or mechanically loaded.
As is common at regional airports, national package carriers often have standardized containers holding packages. Moving packages and containers to loading docks for ground transportation efficiently is critical. The tractor and reloaded trailers often return from the dock to an aircraft with outgoing packages or containers. Container loaders are often used.
Even at small airports, Baggage is moved to the aircraft by special GSE and operators. At regional airports, smaller passenger jets or planes are often hand-loaded. Belt loaders and pallet jacks are also used often.
At small and regional airports, airstairs are in use. Some may push into place, and these airstairs come in various heights. Regional airlines, with ground crews, use airstairs that fit the aircraft and integrate with a truck. Buses are often seen moving passengers from terminals to parked aircraft.
Aircraft Servicing and Maintenance
Fuel trucks are common at the smallest airports. These trucks, operated by specialists, fuel and add additives appropriately, check fluid levels, and check tire pressure. Smaller commercial passenger aircraft may have crews that operate mobile power units for the plane or jet.
Cooling and heating units are often used when passenger aircraft are staging in adverse temperatures. Crews operate aircraft washers and crews inspect the outside for debris and damage. Deicing ground equipment is a must in snow or ice conditions.
Behind the scenes, maintenance hangers contain a variety of GSE-specialized equipment. Aircraft tugs and tow bars move and place aircraft for maintenance operations in a hanger. Power units supply adapters to conduct the appropriate voltage/amperage to aircraft. Fuel trucks normally top off aircraft before towing to hangers; this is necessary as half-empty tanks will have damaging condensation. A&P-certified technicians need aircraft jacks, hoists, and engine stands to do repairs.
Aircraft axle jacks are often used for maintenance. For example, changing out tires, wheels, and brake maintenance. A good example is the Tronair axle jack 02-7813c0100, with a 12-ton lift capacity. These types of axle jacks are easy to use and move. When choosing an axle jack, always check the specifications and ensure it is rated for your aircraft.
GSE Safety, Efficiency, and Reduced Costs
GSE improves safety with the coordinated movement of aircraft around obstacles and vehicles. Escorting passengers avoids danger zones. Cargo is moved, loaded, and unloaded safely and efficiently. Containers and belt loaders protect crews from injury, and airstairs protect passengers from accidents.
All coordinated ground operations conducted among the various crews add efficiency, and crews get more done in less time. Container and belt loaders reduce time out on the tarmac. Passengers move safely and quickly. GSE means safety and efficiency that reduces costs. GSE is now advancing at all airports as more centralized coordination and control technology becomes implemented.
Your Ground Support Equipment
Whether you rely on the airport’s ground support or have your own equipment, GSE is critical to your operations. Small and regional airports are advancing into a new future – expect to be more involved in airport operations. Whether you are a private or commercial pilot, GSE and the operators are the support you need.
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