Michael Doane Retires After 50 Years At Douglas Equipment

Long-standing GSE executive helped introduce towbarless equipment and build the Douglas brand throughout the world.

Anyone looking for GSE career advice should just ask Michael Doane for his.

“You have joined a great industry in which no two days are the same,” he says. “You will face new challenges every day that will test your knowledge and skills and bring you great satisfaction. You will also enjoy working in a very friendly industry that crosses all national, political and economic boundaries and which offers great opportunities and rewards.”

The fact that we dug up that gem from an interview Ground Support Worldwide did with Doane years ago makes it no less relevant today as we talked with him again about his long career at Douglas Equipment Ltd., Cheltenham, UK.

Earlier this year, Doane accomplished what few of us have by stepping down from his sales and marketing position at his one-and-only employer after traveling the world selling GSE facing those new challenges day after day with no two days alike in a career spanning 50 years.



“They gave an excellent start for a young person,” he says by way of explaining his entry with the ground support equipment manufacturer.

Doane joined the company in 1963 as part of a five-year engineering apprenticeship program. Eventually, he became a production engineer in 1968 and moved up the ladder working mainly in design and production until 1974.

From that point, Doane moved into sales becoming a technical sales manager in 1979, general sales manager in 1987 and, finally, sales and marketing director in 1988, which he held until this year.

Thanks in large part to Doane’s work developing the Douglas brand, the company now exports 95 percent of its product worldwide to Europe, Scandinavia, North American, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia, Russia, China and Japan.

“The GSE industry operates in a very special global niche market that is a very competitive market,” he says. “Therefore, winning any order for high-value equipment is a challenge.”


While we don’t pretend to be able to sum up a half-century career in a few magazine pages, Doane takes particular pride in growing the company’s towbarless concept in the 1990s with its original model, the TBL 180.

“Bear in mind that, certainly in the early days, this was a relatively new way of handling aircraft,” he adds. “So the challenge always was to persuade the potential customer that the concept was going to increase operational efficiency, reduce operational costs and increase operational flexibility while protecting the aircraft at all times in a cost-effective way.”

Douglas, no stranger to the GSE industry, was one of the first companies to capitalize on the expanding commercial aviation market when it started manufacturing aircraft towing tractors in 1947.

By the beginning of the 1990s, however, at least two other GSE manufacturers were introducing a new idea – the towbarless tractor. While a bit late to the party, Douglas more than made up for it.

“From the very beginning, we focused on a cost-effective concept and design that could be included across all models in the range we were planning,” Doane explains. “We started with the drive line and, after a great deal of research, opted for what we call a conventional drive line with low maintenance and repair costs, that is conventional torque converters and power shift transmissions and conventional mechanical drive-steer axles that are the same type of drive lines we use in our conventional aircraft towing tractors.”

The towbarless equipment also featured a unique nose landing gear cradle that enables the tractor to be coupled to the aircraft without moving it.

“Therefore, the coupling/uncoupling procedure can be undertaken at anytime during ground operations,” he says. “It fully supports the aircraft’s NLG under all conditions even if all systems fail.”

Douglas also pioneered the use of an electronically controlled multi-mode steering system and now use CanBus controls throughout its designs.

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