Memories Of Ground Support Equipment

Ground support equipment has been a part of flight since the Wright Brothers began flying.


The fill fitting on the hose always seemed to be missing, of course. It was fitted with a wobble pump. It took a lot of effort to fill some types of aircraft where the water tank was in the ceiling of the cabin. By the time of the jets and their much bigger water tanks, trucks with motorized pumps came into use. They still freeze if left outside just like the old water carts.

Finally, fire extinguishers are an oft neglected part of ground support equipment history. In the days of piston-powered aircraft, however, mechanics were very familiar with fire extinguishers. Engine starting, particularly in cold weather, sometimes resulted in rather spectacular fires in the stacks, cowling and often the ground. Raw fuel would accumulate in the stacks and dribble from the blower drain.

A burp from the engine would throw a little fire and there you were. You had to make a judgment call as to if the engine would start and blow out the fire or if it was a little too vigorous for safety. In that case, the CO2 extinguishers of the day came into play.

The good thing was they did no damage and left no residue.

The bad thing was you had to get in close. And there was also a prop to consider, easy to forget when there is fire in front of you. Never forget the prop! One thing for sure, by going from Avgas to Avjet fuel we greatly reduced the fire hazard. With so few fires we have also lost the skills we used to have in fighting them.

I could go on about tugs, lift trucks, loader lifters, belt loaders, passenger loading stairs, Whiting Loadairs, passenger loading bridges, catering vans, maintenance docks in hangars, and, of course, aircraft jacks. They have served me as subjects for many ruminations.

Happy 20th Birthday, Ground Support Worldwide. I hope you will keep me writing for a few more years.

Dedicated to Vinnie Minuto, the first GSE mechanic I met. We both worked at Lockheed in the mid-1950s. We were on graveyard shift and Vinnie was alone in the automotive shop. Aside from responding to our equipment breakdowns, he brewed hot, strong, coffee in the back of his shop that could wake the dead and thaw frozen mechanics.

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