Lektro Inc.'s rise to the role as the official tug of the National Business Aviation Association's Annual Static Display has provided important feedback for design engineering and customer service writes Michelle Garetson
By Michelle Garetson
Maneuvering multi-million dollar aircraft within a few feet of each other to create an efficient and effective static display is not for the timid. It takes patience, eyes in the back of your head, and a trained staff that knows their positions and places. Eric Paulson, President of Lektro Inc. in Warrenton, Oregon and his crew make orchestrating an array of aircraft at the National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) annual Static Display look easy.
But, it wasn't always this way
For years, the details of the NBAA Static Display fell squarely on the shoulders of the host city's airport authority or FBO. Paulson recalls a view of the static display when flying in to his first NBAA in 1985.
"From my window, I watched all these airplanes being handled with tugs and towbars and saw how difficult it was — these planes were all over the place — people standing all around trying to direct these airplanes and I thought that we could do a much better job."
The next year, the show was in Long Beach, and Paulson directed one of his staff to offer a tug to tow airplanes during the static display.
"We brought two units down, one for inside the show and one for out at the static display," explains Paulson. "Their first reaction was 'No, we've got it handled. We don't even know your tug.'
Precise maneuvering of aircraft to within a few feet of each other is not for the timid. Lektro's team has been "tugging" away at the static display for over a decade.
So we said 'Fine' and left it at that."
However, when the FBO crew got in a bind with moving an airplane, they asked Paulson for help. Later, they asked him to move another, then another.
"Before you knew it," says Paulson, "they were asking if we could bring another tug down because we were positioning in spots that a towbar couldn't."
In 1991, NBAA was in Houston.
"That year, it was at Ellington Field," Paulson remembers, "and they had no provisions for this many aircraft coming in. So, the airport director contacted me and said, 'We understand that you're the tow people. Can you do the towing for us?'"
Paulson adds, "We brought something like 10 units down there and I was towing from 6 a.m. 'til 1a.m. and that is when Lektro really became more involved with the towing."
"Typically there's anywhere between 140 and 170 airplanes at the show," says Paulson. "So you're parking these aircraft in positions that normally you don't see in a typical FBO or corporate environment. We're putting aircraft tail to tail, wingtip to wingtip, nose to nose. But, what we learn at the show and what we've had to learn is all of the aircraft configurations — what nose gears get disconnected, the scissors, torque links, and what to do. So that's been a learning experience for us over the years. But even now, the FBO people and aircraft-trained people teach us how to hook up and unhook airplanes and we'll teach them how to drive our tug."
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED
Paulson shares some of the unusual things that have happened when working with the static display over the years.