T&E: Selecting and Purchasing Ground Support Equipment

Experiences gained from maintenance organizations may help with equipment and tooling choices.

What goes into the decision making process for purchasing ground support equipment (GSE) and aircraft maintenance tooling? Who makes the selections and purchase decisions?

What criteria are used to make these decisions? Who provides these decision makers with the technical input and information necessary to make sound purchase decisions? Should purchasing used or reconditioned GSE and tooling be considered during these tough economic times? These are all applicable questions that any sized aircraft maintenance organization should consider when purchasing both GSE and maintenance tooling.

To learn more about purchasing decisions for GSE and maintenance tooling, AMT contacted several different aircraft maintenance organizations and discussed with key people at each of these companies their views and processes used purchasing GSE and maintenance tooling.

A few comments were consistent across all companies. When asked how they go about selecting equipment, all of the people AMT spoke with for this article answered the same, it depends on the aircraft. Specific aircraft require specific equipment. GSE and maintenance tooling is generally recommended by the aircraft manufacturer. Specifications for GSE and maintenance tooling are generally detailed in the aircraft maintenance manuals, the servicing manuals, tool and equipment manuals, maintenance planning documents, and more.

These documents are the best place to start your research.

Additionally, some manufacturers may list specifications for acceptable equivalent equipment types. The people we spoke with also stated that they have contacted other operators of similar aircraft to seek input on their experiences with GSE and tooling types. One of the most important inputs is feedback from their maintenance technicians regarding equipment and tooling experiences and recommendations they can provide. This type of feedback has proven most valuable.

New or used
Peter Zeeb is director of maintenance for Harrah’s Entertainment which operates three business jets. Zeeb shared his experiences with selecting and purchasing GSE and maintenance tooling. At an organization of this size, he is responsible for the selection and purchase of both GSE and maintenance tooling for his company’s flight department.

Zeeb shares that his preference is to purchase new equipment. “I have built strong relationships with GSE and tooling suppliers and manufacturers,” says Zeeb, “and these relationships become very important when selecting and purchasing expensive aircraft support equipment.” When asked if he considers the purchase of used equipment he responds by saying he would only purchase used equipment that has been fully reconditioned. Zeeb says, “If I raise a $40 million aircraft to accomplish maintenance on the landing gear, I want to do it with aircraft jacking equipment that I know has been used properly and has been taken care of properly.”

Buying used is OK but consider the function it will be used for. Another example he used was a hydraulic power unit or “mule” as it is more commonly referred to. The caution he raised was regarding the possible contamination of fluids in a used unit that he has no knowledge of. As for recent purchases, Zeeb states that he recently purchased a couple new aircraft tow bars and for the foreseeable future has no plans for larger purchases. He does continually purchase less expensive maintenance hand tools.

Best value, safety features and recommendations
Jim Sparks oversees the aviation maintenance for a large operator of VIP aircraft. He also has responsibility for the selection and purchase of both GSE and maintenance tooling for his flight department.

Sparks’ approach to selection and purchase of GSE and maintenance tooling is to look for the best value. He does consider purchasing used and reconditioned equipment and tooling, but says he won’t purchase based on price alone. He shares, “We look at the best value and consider the recommendations of our own people along with the views of aircraft manufacturers, GSE and maintenance tooling price, equipment reliability, preventative maintenance, and more. We also look at the safety features of the GSE and maintenance tooling.”

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