Ask Questions and Listen

Q: How did you get involved in the industry?

A: I joined the United States Marine Corps in the late 1970s and was trained in aviation support equipment at the Naval training school in Millington, Tenn. Once released from active duty, I was hired as a ground support equipment (GSE) mechanic by Delta in May of 1979. I served in the maintenance arena for 11 years and completed my degree in electronics and moved to engineering. I followed that with a business degree and have progressed in increasing roles within GSE.

Q: What are some of the major trends you have seen developing over the past decade?

A: The past decade has been one of change for the airlines and GSE. Many cities in EPA non-attainment areas have been forced to reduce emissions. The trend toward alternative fueled equipment and high-speed charging stations has been both educational and challenging. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), The Southern Company (Georgia and Alabama Power) and Georgia Institute of Technology (where my son has recently graduated from) in the study of this technology and the effects that it has on lead acid industrial batteries. Delta has also hosted many of these same organizations in a detailed study in the sharing of loading bridge power for electric vehicle charging, an important technology since many airports have a limited power infrastructure.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced over the years?

A: One distinct challenge that we have faced is moving toward a 70 percent planned maintenance program and 30 percent unplanned. Delta has had a preventative maintenance program for years, and we understand the value of doing preventative and planned maintenance as beneficial for a fleet of any size. Repairs are typically less expensive, require less time and allow us to plan when to have the equipment out of service, which minimizes the impact on our operation. We have made great strides in accomplishing this goal, but still have more work to do in order to truly achieve those percentages. Moreover, we not only have created a thorough preventative maintenance program for our maintenance teams, we have also created a well-documented pre-operational inspection process for our user groups. This joint approach to equipment maintenance has led to safer and more reliable equipment.

Q: What do you favor most about working in this industry?

A: Without a doubt it would have to be the relationships. GSE is a very small community and those that enter into it seldom leave. In my 30 years in this industry, I have formed numerous relationships within Delta, other carriers, manufacturers and airport authorities. Many of these have turned into highly valued friendships.

Q: What changes would you like to see made in the industry?

A: I would like to see a more active role from the airlines as a group in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) meetings. These are the bodies that produce the specifications and the recommended practices that we, as an industry, must adhere to in the design, manufacturing and maintaining of this specialized equipment.

Q: What advice would you give to those new to the industry?

A: Ask questions and listen. Never assume that someone has already thought of an idea and always remain open to new ideas and concepts provided by others. All ideas are worthy of consideration and all minds deserve to be heard.

Q: Who do you admire?

A: I admire many, but especially my former leader, and friend, Tim Wix. Tim came into GSE just over a decade ago and led Delta GSE to new heights. Tim has great vision and the ability to mentor as well as listen to those around him. He expected those around him to share their thoughts, knowledge and passion for GSE. He compiled all of the information from his team and made great decisions. In 2006, Tim was honored with one of the highest awards available in this industry, GSE Leader of the Year. While Tim has recently retired from Delta, I hope that we continue to see him in this industry.

Q: What in the industry keeps you up at night?

A: I think that my largest concern is the uncontrollable cost of oil. This is another reason that we have not just focused on lower-emission internal combustion engines. We may have been able to attain our emission goals with this type of technology, but we would still be chained to the bonds of oil. Through the use of electric technology, and continuing to monitor fuel cell, solar and other forms of alternative fuels, we will continue to reduce this dependency.

Q: Is there one accomplishment that you are especially proud of?

A: Without a doubt, I am most proud of my family. First, for my lovely wife, Cindy, of 25 years who has tolerated all of the rotating shifts and emotions that come from having a spouse in a very cyclical industry and also for three wonderful children, Joe, Jacob and Brooke. Joe, who just graduated with his BSEE degree; Jacob, who has chosen the path of his father and grandfather and has become a third generation Delta employee; and Brooke, who is working at following her mother’s love of educating others.

Q: If not in GSE where would you be?

A: I couldn’t imagine not being in GSE, but my second enjoyable pastime is the study of finances. I will be completing my MBA degree in a few months and value the opportunity to actually apply this knowledge to this career that I have chosen, or has chosen me, and to my personal life. Another weakness of mine is animals. Aside from having several permanent pets of our own, Cindy and I foster young kittens until they are old enough to be placed up for adoption.

Q: Where do you see Delta GSE in the coming years?

A: I foresee Delta GSE continuing to be a leader in the industry as we continually evaluate new technology and increase safety and reliability. While safety will always be at the forefront, we are continuing to study the ergonomic factors of equipment in an effort to provide more effective tools for our operators. We have provided inching devices on our electric tractors, low profile tractors and will soon be deploying FMC Ramp Snake units for an extensive test. These units are designed to aid in the reduction of back injuries for those employees working not only in the aircraft bins but also for those removing or placing luggage in the baggage carts. I also see Delta GSE taking advantage of cost- reducing technology such as LED lights, new tire technology and other improvements on the horizon. In general, Delta, as well as the entire industry, is moving into an exciting time in the next few years.