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.

During this time, Doane traveled extensively throughout the world and grew the company’s global market share for towbarless equipment to a high of 60 percent in less than five years after the product’s introduction.

“In those early days of the towbarless tractors,” he says, “we had tremendous support from our customer base around the world who were able to give us access to aircraft to enable us to complete the airframe manufacturers’ approval tests with each tractor for each model of aircraft it was designed to handle.”



Despite his world travels, one of Doane’s first major sales for towbarless equipment was decidedly closer to home.

Following many months of meetings, discussions and technical presentations, British Airways decided to convert its aircraft handling operations at Heathrow and Gatwick airports to towbarless equipment in the mid-1990s,

“This was part of an airline-wide drive to increase operational efficiency, reduce operational costs and increase operational flexibility,” Doane adds. “Towbarless equipment was going to be the key to the airline’s operational goals for its ground operations.”

Doane was able to persuade the airline with “well presented technical presentations, factually based and supported” that the Douglas concept was the right solution. As a result, Douglas received what was at the time the largest order for towbarless tractors ever placed, and included TBL 180s, TBL 280s and TBL 400s.

Douglas’ towbarless equipment soon spread throughout the world:

  • In the Middle East, for example, Dnata, Emirates ground handing division, was one of the first major ground handling service providers to adopt the towbarless concept.
  • A sale of a fleet of TBL 180 towbarless tractors to American Airlines for pushback operations helped the company break into the U.S. market. The American Airlines sale quickly led to substantial orders from Continental Airlines for the TBL 280 and TBL 400 towbarless tractors for maintenance towing operations in Newark and Houston.
  • At the same time with the support of Air Canada, Doane gained an introduction into the Canadian market with sales of the TBL 280 and TBL 400.

“I think we are now an established supplier to the North American market having secured orders over the last 10-15 years from many more North American airlines,” he says.

Of course, Doane was marketing more than just towbarless equipment in the 35 years he spent in the sales and marketing department. More than 40 percent of the company’s production is, in fact, still in conventional aircraft towing tractors.

“And this range of products have also seen great strides in development,” he says.

While Doane “retired” last March, he remains a consultant with Douglas. He was also asked to take up the position of honorary president at the British Airport Services and Equipment Association, which helps member companies promote their products and services – and a group he led as chairman for seven years during his busy Douglas career.

“It is an opportunity to stay involved in the industry and give other companies the benefit of my experience,” he adds.

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