The History Of Ground Support Equipment

Ground Support Worldwide turns 20 years old with this issue. With one birthday in mind, we decided to take a look at many more GSE birthdays and celebrate some of the names behind the brand-names.


1973 – TUG Manufacturing Corp. starts making its eponymous “tugs,” namely, the Model MA, which is still produced today.

1975 – David Clark Co. introduces the first headset specifically designed to provide hearing protection for pilots while providing clear, isolated reception and transmission at normal voice levels inside noisy aircraft. Ground support models follow.

1976 – Nicky Ghaemmaghami establishes Hydraulics International, which goes on to specialize in military GSE.

1979 – Jim Watkins starts WASP, Inc. (Watkins Aircraft Support Products) in Alexandria, MN. In a news article published in 1981, Watkins says, “Our first year of business we had just one customer, now we have 10. We feel we can provide a lot of jobs and bring other investment money into our community.” In 1980, sales were $280,000. One year later, sales topped $1 million. Jim turns out to be right about those jobs - currently, six employees have each worked at WASP for 30 years. Watkins ends up building another plant in Nebraska. By 1996, sales grow to $33 million, and Jim sells the company to his employees in 1997.

1980s – Tracma and Air France introduce the first towbarless tractor.

Charlatte SA, which started 20 years before machining metal parts, creates Charlatte Menutention and becomes a leader in electric GSE throughout Europe.

1981 – Vestergaard builds a new type of deicer, the Elephant Alpha, equipped with the now familiar telescopic spray boom.

1983 – Fortbrand Services starts serving the GSE industry, but also expands into selling airfield equipment.

Hugh I. Hunt opens Ground Support Products, specializing in tires, rollers and casters.

1987 – FCX Systems, Inc. starts to design and manufacture solid-state frequency converters.

ERMA get its start selling GSE to Airbus.

After decades of manufacturing heavy equipment for the construction and transportation industries, Goldhofer introduces a towbarless tractor.

1987 – Matt Sheehan starts AERO Specialties, a manufacturer and distributor of new and used GSE throughout the world.

1989 – Jamie Kaplan joins Harlan Corp. as president. Jamie develops the company’s low profile tractor that remains the company’s highest-volume product.

1990s – George Prill publishes the first issue of GSE Today in February 1992.

Jim and Jamie Kaplan hire George Revere to help improve Harlan Corp.’s business operations and market strategies. Since the late-1990s the company has expanded its product line into the electric GSE market.

After working for various refueling companies for some 20 years, Terry Bosserman starts selling refuelers from his house. A year later, Bosserman Aviation Equipment gets its own address.

TLD creates its GSE division and acquires Tracma, Albret Industrie, Erma, Devtec (in the United States and in Asia) and Lantis. By the end of the decade, TLD decides to specialize in GSE and sells its aeronautical equipment division.

Charlatte expands to the U.S. market and opens Charlatte of America.

Elite Line Services begins providing GSE and airport equipment maintenance.

Phoenix Metal Products, Inc. begins designing and manufacturing GSE.

Ground Support Specialist LLC, starts manufacturing and remanufacturing GSE.

A.T. Juniper’s commercial engine wash system originated from the military wash rigs Juniper designed in the 1980s. The rigs were first trailed commercially in the early 1990s at Gatwick Airport with Virgin Atlantic using shepherd’s hook type washing probes directing the washing solution into the booster from positions behind the fan.

Stephen Parker, expands Par-Kan into GSE and other equipment for the aircraft industry.

Patrick G. O’Brien starts MCM Engineering Inc. O’Brien was the chief engineer for well-known GSE companies such as Hobart Brothers, Devtec (now TLD) and McCormick-Morgan before starting MCM.

Premier Engineering & Manufacturing Inc. enters the deicing arena initially servicing a line of deicers that Premier’s founder Jerry Derusha had helped build. Shortly after starting, Premier builds its own line of deicers and receives a contract for 64 units from United Airlines.

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