T&E: Selecting and Purchasing Ground Support Equipment

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


Sparks states that their view is to solicit input from aircraft and test equipment manufacturers and seek references about GSE and maintenance tooling from other operators.

Additionally, Sparks says, “In the past we have required that GSE and tooling manufacturers educate our maintenance technicians on the product as part of certain purchases.” The most recent large purchase was an aircraft tug capable of moving aircraft up to 100,000 pounds.

The new company
Dan Henchal, director of technical services for MSP Jet Center, a recently opened business jet maintenance organization, shares his experiences. Henchal is responsible for the selection and purchase of both GSE and maintenance tooling for this new maintenance company.

Being a new company and cost conscious, Henchal states that they looked to the used and reconditioned market in an effort to maintain cost control. Henchal says, “When we opened we were fortunate to find and purchase a used tooling package for several applicable aircraft types at a very good price.” His approach to purchasing GSE and maintenance tooling is to reach out to the surplus market and utilizes the Internet to locate equipment and tooling for purchase.

“There are operators and maintenance organizations these days that unfortunately are closing. This provides access to a variety of equipment at competitive prices,” says Henchal. He also researches aviation auction houses for availability of good used GSE and maintenance tooling. At times he considers rent and lease arrangements with the intention of purchasing in the future.

For other new maintenance organizations, Henchal advises to keep close control on GSE and maintenance tooling spending. He states, “Everyone wants to sell you new equipment and this is understandable. Sometimes good used and reconditioned equipment will do just fine.” One example he used was the purchase of a used oxygen servicing cart he found for less than $1,000. He says, “We paid the shipping and invested some labor to clean and paint the cart. It serves us just fine and we would have paid many times this amount for a new one.

Henchal says he is constantly looking for GSE and tooling and plans to continually add tooling as their company expands its maintenance capabilities.

Airlines
In all three of the previous examples the size of the companies was such that the responsibility for selection and purchase for both GSE and maintenance tooling becomes the task of the maintenance department. In the airline industry this is generally not the case.

The sheer size of the airlines, the multiple locations, and the different departments requires that the selection and purchasing for GSE is generally different than that for maintenance tooling. The airport or ground operations departments are the responsible groups for servicing, loading, unloading, and in many cases moving aircraft. They become responsible for the selection and purchase of GSE. The maintenance or technical organizations become responsible for the selection and purchase of maintenance tooling, and a limited amount of GSE that is used for specific maintenance functions.

Similar to the business jet operators, no matter if you are talking about GSE or maintenance tooling, specific airline aircraft require specific equipment. Again, GSE and maintenance tooling is generally recommended by the aircraft manufacturer or called for in a variety of manuals and documents. The airlines may have several people and departments involved in selection and purchasing, and in most cases they consider common use equipment between the maintenance and airport operations departments. This overlap is typically for handling equipment like tow bars and tugs, and perhaps for lift trucks that may be used for maintenance and aircraft servicing. A lot of the aircraft servicing equipment is common use and can be used on multiple aircraft fleet types due to common adapters for air, water, waste, and electrical connections.

Repair stations
There is another aircraft maintenance group to consider in this discussion and that is repair stations for specialized maintenance functions. Many repair stations are small and offer specialized services that require huge investments in equipment and tooling. One example of this is nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment.

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