So much talk these days of gasoline-powered vs. electric GSE makes one forget sometimes that so many small airports around the country – and likely around the world – have people-powered ground support equipment. I was reminded of that just this week when I was working at a small, commercial service airport in New England.
I was out on the ramp conducting an audit of a Part 135 air carrier. A steady rain was falling and the temperatures had dipped to close to freezing. The lone scheduled carrier at the airport landed and the ticket-agent-baggage-handlers-ramp crew were, in effect, just two people. I saw them leave the terminal where they had just completed check-in for the passengers on the outgoing flight. They got the baggage cart and dragged it by hand to the waiting aircraft.
As a steady rain continued to fall, one young man guided the passengers across the wet ramp, while the other unloaded about 15 bags and dragged the cart along the slippery tarmac back to the terminal. Fifteen minutes later, these two men repeated the process in the opposite direction as the plane's passengers embarked and the bags were loaded.
It just made me pause and think. So much focus is on the major airports and the issues and problems that dominate their operations, that it's easy to forget that aviation happens in airports big and small. And the small airport issues need attention, too.