Greg W. Nist is Fleet Manager of Ground Support Equipment for U.S. Airways, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA.
Q: How did you get into aviation?
A: I was raised on the south side of Pittsburgh, about four miles from the Allegheny County Airport. As a kid, my older brothers and I would hike over to the airport and watch the planes. When I completed high school, I enrolled at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics at the County Airport for the A&P mechanic program. After graduation, I was hired by Allegheny Airlines at Hartford, CT and have worked for the airline for the last 35 years.
Q: How did you get into GSE?
A:In 1979, the company was expanding what was then a very small GSE department. I applied for and was awarded a position as a technical supervisor. At that time, GSE was a growing department with good opportunities and lots of interesting projects. I became involved with installation and maintenance of loading bridges, power units, PCair systems and several new terminal construction projects. I enjoyed the work and the people and stayed within the GSE department.
Q: When a company goes through a merger, what effect does it have on ground equipment?
A: Mergers are all unique, but those I have experienced bring different equipment types and maintenance and operating philosophies. While the philosophies eventually blend together, the different types of equipment remain. Standardization becomes a lost fantasy and the reality of a diverse fleet must be managed. Aside from the maintenance issue the equipment variety brings, the operator issues for ramp personnel are the biggest challenge. We have had some success by limiting the equipment types to a specific model or manufacturer at our larger cities, but even this is a difficult and expensive task. Complicating the issue even more is the fact mergers generally involve a company or companies with long term financial issues and, of course, dated equipment. Replacement programs barely can keep up with the growth issues, so it takes years and a strong corporate commitment to make a significant impact to improve the overall fleet age and condition.
Q: Is there such a thing as a smooth transition when new ground handling software is installed?
A: Programming changes are a challenge, but planning is paramount to a smooth transition. The biggest difference today is the acceptance by the front line employees. When we first started collecting data, there was a lot of resistance. Now, mechanics appreciate the information available to them and are more accepting of new and improved programs. This allows us to concentrate on our business presentation, training and implementation planning. That said, most of us are working with limited headcount, tight budgets and expectations for instant success. Ground equipment touches so many different operating and business departments within the company; every group has some function requiring approval or interface. The most difficult task is coordinating these different departments to accomplish their target tasks on schedule.
With a proven program, decent hardware and a great support team, this can be a fun project. We have just started a program upgrade which will be a major change in our business format. We have dedicated a seasoned team of folks working to make this a successful program. Ask me next year and I'll let you know how smooth the installation was!
Q: How do leadership changes affect a ground crew? Purchasing?
A: Leadership changes, whether through mergers or retirements, generally results in uncertainty for all employees. It usually takes a few months for new policies or strategies to filter down, so rumor and speculation become the main conversation topic, but the daily routine goes on relatively unaffected. The industry is constantly changing and airline folks seem to adapt.
And the winner is ... Greg Nist, Fleet Manager, GSE, US Airways!
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