Q: What are some of the major trends you have seen developing over the past 20–30 years?
A: I can identify three major trends that had major impact. First, the environmental drive. I'm sure that every old-timer remembers the days of the first 707s leaving four black trails from their engines as they climbed out. GPUs slobbered diesel fuel all across the ramp, run-off from washing and steam cleaning GSE ran into the lawn or down the drain with batteries and tires thrown in the trash. Our entire industrial base, not just aviation, needed to clean up. The drive for electric equipment took a major hit with 9-11, but appears to be getting back on track now. I believe that almost all GSE will go electric in the next 10 years. We are converting to a full electric forklift fleet at SEA Cargo and have hybrid bobtails on order for ANC.
Second, the growing wave of a lack of responsibility. I watched it at American and everywhere else I've worked there's an ongoing lack of accountability. It was always the equipment's fault. It was always someone else's fault. You should have trained me better. You should have known I'd drive into that airplane. You should have known that I would disable the safety locks, pull off the protective cover and stick my hand in that belt.
Workers deserve to receive good training, but then as responsible adults, have the duty to themselves, their fellow workers and the company to act as responsible adults.
Third of course, is outsourcing. The economic conditions have made it not only a reality, but a necessity to survive. And you can't just blame the unions, it took management to give away the farm. I really believe it's a cycle. As the carriers regain their health and service companies lose focus, more carriers will bring pieces back in house with a much stronger management philosophy. Service companies that are sharp, totally customer focused, with trained and dedicated people will continue to be strong players.
Q: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced over the years?
A: I think the biggest challenge I ever faced was being forced into learning not to be a micro-manager. At American, I drove pretty hard. I had some great people and I drove them almost as crazy as I did myself. I used to think I was doing pretty well, but I remember one time when I was trying to quit smoking, one of my field techs stood on his desk and pleaded with me to PLEASE go buy a pack of cigarettes! It took a heart attack for me to learn to delegate. I quickly discovered that empowering people, giving them guidance and letting them do the job their way drove productivity sky-high. If you can get people excited, if you can show them that they make a difference and their contribution really matters, if you can learn to guide them, not tell them, you can build a staff that can move mountains. Here at Alaska, two of my top staff were the junior mechanics from Alaska Airlines. Mike Vesco was the outstation traveling mechanic. He is now hub manager, responsible for the complete state of Alaska including 21 stations and seven shops. Daniel Manary, also a junior mechanic, is now responsible for all training, safety and environmental in the Alaska Division and is supporting ELS' other GSE sites. They accepted the challenge and responded, not all do.
Q: Being a long-term vet, what advice would you give to our readers?
A: With American Airlines and now working with other carriers and service companies, I am amazed on how we lose site of who the customer really is. And I hate the line "treat the customer as you want to be treated." Treat the customer as a customer (who's paying the bill!) should be treated. Keep your people focused. At Alaska, our job is to give Alaska's people the best tools in the most effective, efficient and timely manner possible to do their job. They don't want to hear how I couldn't get going this morning, the people we replaced forgot that. It's my job to insure we never do. Oh, that does not mean the customer is always right, but it does mean that he/she always has our attention, our focus, our honesty and our very best.
Ruminations from the Ramp Shift Work and Odd Professions By Tony Vasko December 2000 Before I start all that, there has been some interest in old and aged ground equipment. I started it...