‘Tis the Season
Winter is not far off and the GSE Maintenance Technicians at United Airlines' O'Hare facility in Chicago are busy with prepping UAL's fleet of deicing equipment while moving into a brand-new GSE maintenance facility, writes Michelle Garetson
By Michelle Garetson/p>
By Michelle Garetson
Hard to think of deicing on a sweltering August day, but this is when the work needs to be done. In addition, United is gearing up for the opening of its new, state-of-the-art Ground Equipment Maintenance facility and when GSE Today was there, they were in the process of moving out of their current facility - an old aircraft hangar, and into a new, $46 million facility, which is directly opposite the main entrance of the current hangar. The old building is quite visible from the air and those of us who fly in and out of Chicago O'Hare Airport can easily spot the rather retro-looking, large red UNITED AIR LINES sign affixed to the front of the old building. Five years in the making and what a difference from old to new. Even though everything's in a bit of a state right now, the United GSE Maintenance team is still taking care of the business at hand of performing service checks on its deicing fleet to prepare for the upcoming winter season.
United has approximately 150 GSE maintenance technicians that are divided into teams that work on a three shifts per day basis. All of the GSE mechanics and ramp workers are a part of a team based on a product category.
United's Lead Mechanics on the Deicing Team, Mike Innes and Scott McLeod, are two GSE mechanics with 24 years and 15 years, respectively with the airline. They work all year long with the same team on UAL's deicing equipment. The deicing team is a higher level of team assignment and mechanics and ramp employees have to work toward this team. United began the team concept to help promote better equipment care and maintenance accountability, as well as to boost morale and professionalism of the employees. This team approach seems to work as evidenced by Innes and McLeod's long tenures. In fact, Innes and McLeod offered that the most junior member of the deicing team has been with them for six years.
Prior to the team approach, the mechanics and ramp workers would come in to work and discover an array of broken down vehicles outside the shop doors with no notes on the problem, or, if there even was a problem, which made diagnosis difficult and time-consuming.
Now, the Ramp team keeps control of the inventory. "Used to find trucks scattered everywhere," says McLeod, "now we don't have to track it."
Having the ramp team in place means the 'bogus breakdowns' have disappeared.
"In the past," reminisces McLeod, "if the deicers didn't want to be out there, they'd dump it [truck] off outside the facility and then leave."
Ramp workers on the team have a sense of responsibility and ownership for these vehicles and now make sure Innes and McLeod know the exact status of the equipment at any given time.
A system that aids United employees with the tracking of equipment as well as security is called the CDPD (Cellular Digital Packaged Data). This system relays GPS data as well as information about the vehicle. The daily user checks are done by the operators of the vehicles and this data is sent to a centralized computer that records the confirmation. This puts accountability on the user of the vehicle to ensure that it meets safety requirements. The hours of utilization are also updated to the central computer so that regular PM service can be performed.
"October 15th is 'Readiness Day'. We're pretty much starting on August 1st with PMs," Innes explains.