Lifetime Achievement Award: Bill Jacob

Even after 24 years, Bill Jacob knows the exact date he started at UPS – Jan. 6, 1988. “It’s emblazoned in my head,” he says. “It was a monumental change.”

He was 38 years old at the time, had worked for Eastern Air Lines for the past 16 years, turning wrenches and then teaching countless new mechanics to do the same and was supervising GSE operations for the airline’s premier hub at Hartsfield Airport.

Now, here he was taking a job as a GSE mechanic – exactly where he’d started out his career – temporarily leaving behind his wife, a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, plus a nice house in Atlanta, GA, to move into a rented one-bedroom apartment in Louisville, KY.

“I was a journeyman GSE mechanic all over again,” Jacob says.

But what a place to be one. His new employer, UPS, had just started its own airline and established a hub at Louisville International Airport. And in just a few years, Worldport would open – eventually all 5.2 million square feet of it.

If you were going to work your way up again, this was the time and the place.

UPS also believes in promoting from within. And soon enough, the powers that be, including the executive whose job Jacob currently has, recognized this new mechanic could do much more.

William J. Jacob, vice president, airline ground support equipment for UPS Airlines, oversees the acquisition, engineering and maintenance of 32,000 pieces of GSE and has spent 40 years in the industry.

It was that dedication to the GSE industry that earned him our magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Bill was always looking forward with his vision for the GSE industry, especially in the area of environmentally friendly equipment,” said one of his nominators. “As a personal mentor to all new-comers to the world of GSE, he’s shared that vision and has been a leader both within UPS as well as to GSE manufacturers around the globe.”


UPS plans to cut its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020. The company already boasts the largest private fleet of alternative-fueled vehicles. UPS has experimented with a number of different technologies for its trucks, including electric, CNG, LNG, propane, electric hybrid and hydraulic hybrid.

UPS Airlines, however, is also the world’s ninth largest airline with 500 airplanes engaged in almost 2,000 flights each day. Jacob, a well-known proponent of green GSE, has made sure that his operations play a big part in the company’s environmental initiatives.

Here’s what he had to say in a 2009 interview with Ground Support Worldwide:

“The last trend has been coming for many years — the need for transportation companies to consider the environment in daily operations. At UPS, we realize the need for more environmentally friendly fuels, more efficient equipment uses and we are exploring new technologies and methods to reduce our impact on the environment. There are challenges associated with such enhancements, including additional costs, but our industry should continue to find solutions to benefit both the environment and business.”

Here are a few highlights we’ve also covered in past issues:

  • Repowered more than 90 tugs running for a decade on their original diesel engines with new 2.8-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engines.
  • Installed electric GPUs to supply parked aircraft with ground power, eliminating almost 26 mobile, diesel-powered GPUs.
  • Stationed electric cargo loaders at Worldport, including models that regenerate their batteries each time the loader is moved up or down.
  • Also, repowered more than 100 gasoline-powered vehicles stationed in California with lower-emission gasoline engines per state regulations.

Let’s take a look at what Jacob has done lately:

  • Biodiesel: UPS installed two biodiesel tanks at Worldport last March to provide customized fuel for about 200 diesel-powered GSE.

One 30,000-gallon tank holds pure biodiesel made from Kentucky soybeans. The other 5,000-gallon tank holds ultra-low sulfur diesel.

The setup allows the company to blend fuel right at the pump ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent.

“Most companies will typically buy biodiesel that’s already been blended directly by their suppliers,” Jacob explains. “But we can blend this as we see fit.”

Not only does the fuel burn cleaner, but Jacob says biodiesel’s lubricating properties help the equipment last longer than straight diesel.

  • Electric Cargo Tractors: Jacob was also working with Corvus Energy and its North American supplier, GTA Aviation, to install the company’s lithium ion batteries into two cargo tractors.

“Electric definitely has its niche,” Jacob says. “But we haven’t found the right performance with traditional lead acid batteries. We pull heavy loads – as much 32,000 pounds – and for long distances, too – as long as two miles.”

Jacob plans to test the system at Worldport to see how the batteries stand up to cargo demands.

  • LSI Rule: Jacob is also building on an earlier accomplishment that we noted above in California. While the state’s “low spark ignition” rule required the retrofit, Jacob is implementing it at Worldport, swapping out old Ford 300 cubic-inch gas engines for four-cylinder versions.

“We’re doing it in Louisville because we know we can save fuel – as much as 30 percent,” he says. “Plus, the engines produce 85 percent less harmful emissions. So we can save money and it’s the right thing to do for the environment.”