Ground Support Spotlight: David Dick

April 9, 2024
The vice president and general manager at Wilcox GSE shares his thoughts on current challenges and opportunities across the industry.
Wilcox GSE

Name: David Dick

Job Title: Vice President and General Manager

Company: Wilcox Group of Companies | Wilcox GSE

Location: Milton, Ontario, Canada

Years with current company: 27

Years of experience in ground support: 7


Ground Support Worldwide: What attracted you to a career in the ground support industry?

David Dick: Looking at the ground support industry from the outside, as someone who wasn't originally part of the aviation world, it seemed to me like things had gotten kind of stale. I'm all about shaking things up and introducing change, and from where I stood, it looked like the industry was just cruising along, doing the same old things the same old way, without really looking for new options. It struck me as a great chance for someone new, someone not already part of the scene, to step in with some fresh ideas and push against what everyone else was used to. I saw it as a chance to throw out new ideas, get people thinking differently about their routines, and ask if there's a better way to do things. It felt like the industry could really use a boost, and I was excited to jump in and help provide that. Plus, I won't lie, airplanes are just plain cool, and that definitely played a part in my decision.


GSW: What has kept you engaged in the industry?

DD: Since I'm still pretty new to the GSE scene, staying engaged hasn't been a challenge at all. But if I had to pinpoint what's kept me hooked, it's definitely the thrill of the challenge and the fantastic people I've met along the way. Being the 'new guy' with Wilcox GSE and diving into this world of well-established giants has been an eye-opening experience. I quickly realized that making a dent in such a seasoned industry isn't a walk in the park. It's tough and nothing's just going to fall into your lap. Every day is about chipping away at the old ways and trying to get folks to see things differently. That challenge? It's what keeps me on my toes and totally engaged.

Then there are the people. I've never been part of a community so eager to lift each other up. Over the last seven years at Wilcox GSE, I've crossed paths with some incredibly kind and supportive folks. The aviation industry is home to a really special group of people. It's quite something how welcoming and helpful everyone's been. So yeah, the challenges keep me sharp, and the people make it all worthwhile.


GSW: What’s the best advice you’ve been given while working in this field?

DD: One piece of advice that has truly stuck with me and guided my actions every day is the importance of leading by example. It's simple yet powerful. I was told that the best way to inspire others, drive change, and foster a positive work environment is not just by telling others what to do but by showing them how it's done. This means putting in the hard work, being ethical in my dealings, staying committed to our goals, and treating everyone with respect.

Living by this advice, I strive to be someone my team can look up to and rely on, whether we're facing routine tasks or navigating new challenges. It's about being the first to dive into the trenches, showing dedication and integrity, and being open to learning and adapting. This approach has not only helped me grow as a professional but also has encouraged those around me to strive for their best.

In the dynamic world of ground support, where every day comes with its set of challenges and learning opportunities, leading by example has been my focus. It’s helped me earn trust and build stronger, more cooperative teams. Ultimately, it’s about embodying the values and work ethic you want to see in your industry, and I believe that’s the foundation for any lasting change or success.


GSW: How have you seen the ground support industry change the most during your career?

DD: The ground support industry has undergone significant transformation, particularly highlighted by the shifts brought on by the pandemic. One of the most noticeable changes has been in personnel dynamics. Over the years, we've seen a considerable turnover in staff, leading to a notable drain of industry knowledge. Experienced professionals who once steered the industry with their deep understanding of equipment, processes and procedures have either moved into different roles or exited the sector entirely. This shift has left a noticeable void.

The depth of experience and expertise that was once a given when I entered the aviation world seems to have tapered off significantly. Now, there's a tangible gap in understanding—the 'why' behind actions and the clarity on responsibilities have diminished. Furthermore, it's becoming increasingly common for individuals to juggle multiple roles. This not only dilutes their ability to fully apply their skills and knowledge to any single area but also, in some instances, increases operational risks.

This evolution speaks to the need for a renewed focus on training and knowledge transfer within the industry. It's crucial that we address these gaps and work towards fostering an environment where the next generation of ground support professionals is equipped with the necessary skills and understanding to navigate the complexities of this field safely and effectively.


GSW: Has this change been to the benefit or detriment of the industry?

DD: Right now, the industry is definitely feeling the strain. The high turnover and stretching of personnel thin across multiple roles have led to quicker burnout rates and noticeable lapses in communication. It's a tough spot, and in the short term, it's been more of a detriment to us all.

However, I'm also seeing a silver lining. It's creating unprecedented opportunities for new talent to step in, bringing with them fresh, exciting ideas that could really shake things up. This transition period could spark a wave of innovation in the industry, especially with the ongoing electrification of vehicles and equipment at airports. I'm expecting to see a surge of new products, ideas, and concepts—some even borrowed from other industries—that will push our boundaries further.

For me, despite the current frustrations, it's an exhilarating time to be part of the ground support industry. The challenges we face today are setting the stage for dynamic changes and personal growth. I'm eagerly looking forward to what the future holds, ready to adapt and contribute to this evolution.


GSW: What’s the next big thing coming to the ground support industry?

DD: At Wilcox GSE, we're at the forefront of what we believe is the next significant shift in the ground support industry: the widespread acceptance and use of aluminum in design, build and manufacturing processes. Our commitment to innovation is evident through our current offerings, including an aluminum baggage cart that's already making waves in the market, alongside our aluminum maintenance stairs and tire carts. We see aluminum as a game-changer for several reasons.

Firstly, aluminum is a sustainable material, aligning with the growing industry and global emphasis on environmental responsibility. It matches steel in strength but stands out for its lighter weight. This makes it an ideal choice for electric vehicles and equipment, enabling easier maneuverability and efficiency, crucial for the fast-paced airport environment. Additionally, aluminum's resilience and aesthetic appeal ensure that equipment not only performs well but also maintains a pristine appearance over time.

We recognize that shifting to alternative materials like aluminum may take time and effort, particularly in an industry as established as ours. However, we're confident that, much like the transition to electric equipment, the adoption of aluminum and similar materials will eventually become the new standard. It's not just about adopting a new material; it's about embracing a future where innovation, sustainability and efficiency drive our industry forward. We at Wilcox GSE are excited to lead this charge, anticipating a future where these principles are not just accepted but expected


GSW: What type of an impact will it make?

DD: The impact of incorporating aluminum into the ground support industry's design and manufacturing processes will be profound and wide-reaching. By integrating this alternative material, particularly in the context of electric equipment, we're looking at a future where operational efficiency is significantly enhanced. Aluminum's lighter weight will extend the battery life of electric vehicles and equipment, enabling longer periods of use between charges. This improvement is not just a win for efficiency; it's a leap forward in environmental sustainability.

Customers adopting equipment made from aluminum will see a noticeable reduction in their carbon footprint. This aligns with a growing industry-wide commitment to sustainability and positions these early adopters as leaders in eco-friendly practices. Beyond the environmental benefits, the use of aluminum will also lead to reduced operating costs. Its durability and lower maintenance requirements mean a longer lifespan for equipment, translating to savings over time.

Moreover, this shift towards sustainable and efficient equipment will inevitably enhance brand recognition. Companies that prioritize innovative materials like aluminum in their operations will be viewed as forward-thinking and responsible—qualities that resonate strongly with today's environmentally conscious consumers and partners.


GSW: What would you say to encourage someone to join the ground support industry?

DD: If you're eyeing the ground support industry, definitely give it a shot. It's packed with diverse companies, amazing individuals, and plenty of growth paths. This industry is an incredible ecosystem filled with amazing companies and even more amazing people.

Every day offers the chance to contribute to the vital world of aviation, surrounded by a community eager to support your success. It’s an industry that challenges you and rewards your efforts, making it an exciting place to work and advance. So, if you're drawn to a career that blends innovation, teamwork and impact, the ground support industry may be your calling.

About the Author

Josh Smith | Editor