Brian Biedron: 2024 Lifetime Achievement

April 9, 2024
United Airlines' facilities and GSE engineering program manager has gone above and beyond for decades to advance the equipment that supports aviation.

When you do great things every day, over time the idea of “great” simply becomes the daily norm. According to Brian Biedron’s colleagues, they know they can expect excellence from him to be business as usual.

As the facilities and GSE engineering program manager at United Airlines, Biedron wears many hats. On a given day, he could be working with the strategy team to deploy ground support equipment (GSE) at various locations, investigating incidents and implementing safety-focused policies and procedures, or collaborating with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on designs.

“There is a high volume of work that comes through here,” says Jim Davis, senior manager of facilities and GSE engineering at United. “And being a single source of information is really challenging and he handles it. I don't know how he does it.”

With more than 25 years of experience, Biedron has been a valuable asset to his team and has made significant contributions to GSE industry. To recognize these accomplishments, Biedron has been awarded Ground Support Worldwide’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement award.

“It's great, especially with all the talented people out in the industry. To get this really means something,” Biedron says.

Professional Background

Biedron went to trade school and studied to be an auto diesel mechanic. After completing his education, he applied for work as a technician and was hired by Continental Airlines. He didn’t know much about the GSE industry at the time, but approached it with an open mind.

“I just kind of walked in,” Biedron recalls. “I said, ‘Hey, it's a job. It’s going to pay. We’ll go for it.’

“When I first started, the fleet was much older. It was more carbureted vehicles than fuel-injected vehicles on-road,” he continues. “So, I actually had to go back a little bit, and now we're progressing into current technology.”

As he became acclimated with GSE, Biedron says it was a natural fit for him.

“It's a unique industry. It's a mix of construction, mining, on-road technology, all put into one vehicle,” Biedron says.

The Continental and United merger was announced in 2010. Biedron, with other GSE technicians, navigated the transition and the integration was completed by 2012.

“There were differences between the two. Two different unions. Both union, but different work contracts,” he says. “We were a small station, compared to United being a hub.

“We all became one through the contracts, through the merger. When they firmly got the contracts in place, it all became one. We were all GSE,” he adds.

Following his contributions to several projects during his time as a technician, Biedron was offered a position in engineering. He has held his current position as program manager for GSE engineering for the last 10 years.

“I wasn't seeking it,” he says. “They kind of sought me.”

While the decision to leave his maintenance role was difficult one, Biedron was excited to have the opportunity to make changes to equipment before it left the factory.

GSE Expertise

In his current role, Biedron has been able to play a key role in the standardization of United’s GSE fleet – a lofty task that includes getting common components on all makes and models to reduce costs associated with labor, parts and time.

“It was coming up with a common standard that transfers from make and model to make and model going down the road, so it's easier to work on,” he says.

GSE fleet standardization has also helped United adopt new technology and meet emissions goals.

“It starts with the strategy department, giving us the goals of what they’ve got to change and then figuring out what the best solution for that application is going to be,” Biedron says. “If it’s a remote area, sometimes electric vehicles aren’t the greatest. It still might be a fossil fuel vehicle. If it’s a station that we’re forced into it, you’ve got to come up with a solution. And sometimes (we work with) our facility side with how we’re going to get infrastructure there for chargers and planning that all out.

“It’s a lot of departments that come together to make that happen.”

Biedron also contributes to policy and procedure, setting the scope of work for preventative maintenance (PM) programs, refurbishment and specs for new vehicles.

“Any changes that have to be done after the fact in the field, any type of safety programs that we do worldwide, we would handle that,” he says.

Safety innovations are also a large part of Biedron’s duties, solving GSE-related challenges from a global perspective.

“It’s one of the big challenges – local versus global,” Biedron says. “Everybody wants to do something local because they see it from their side. We’re seeing it from the global side.”

He also oversees accident investigations, reviewing data to help determine whether operator error or equipment malfunction was the cause of an incident.

Despite this range of tasks from day to day, Biedron remains level-headed and focused on the job that needs to be completed.

“We do have a tense environment. And it’s hard to give service with a smile every day, but Brian is very sensible,” Davis says. “He listens to facts. He responds to the facts and just keeps as accurate as possible. But he’s always helpful. I’ve never seen him turn down a request for information.”

That willingness to help suits Biedron well because his role requires a lot of collaboration. He works closely with other departments internally at United, authorities like the FAA regarding safety items and equipment certifications as well as OEMs about equipment. He contributes to the technical side of GSE design, providing insight on how United’s ground support personnel need equipment to work as well as how it will be used and maintained.

“How do we bring that all together?” he says. “That includes sharing some personal experiences, and everyone else’s collaboration.”

“We get invited to a lot of discussions, and Brian is pretty much the person they pick to be the subject matter expert on anything we do,” Davis says.

Behind-the-Scenes Talent

Biedron’s 26-year career has been filled with many memorable moments. Perhaps most challenging was during the COVID-19 pandemic when his department went from a team of four to just himself.

“It was exhausting. It’s the only way to put it,” Biedron recalls. “It was just taking everyone's role on, instead of being able to say, ‘Hey, I'm going to grab this one, I'm going to grab that one.’ It’s now just the whole world is yours.”

During that time, United started a GSE surplus lot at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago that Biedron was tasked with maintaining.

“The preservation and storage of equipment was new,” he says, noting 1,200 pieces of GSE were stored long-term. “We basically took over a parking lot, got a couple forklifts and away we go.

“It was learn as we go.”

Biedron and his colleagues at United persevered through the pandemic. He credits this achievement, among many others, to the brilliant people making contributions across the ground support industry.

“There's a lot of talented people working behind the scenes. I don't think enough people see that,” Biedron says. “They all focus on the airplane and everything, but when you look at it, it’s GSE moving your stuff.”

He explains successful teamwork is what allows challenges to be overcome.

“You can get bogged down on every problem you have coming in. But at the end of the day, you got to come up with something and keep it moving,” Biedron says. “Everybody’s got a bad day, but that day’s going to end.”

Drawing from his own experience, Biedron says he has had more good days than bad, and encourages others to join the GSE world, too.

“Do it,” he says. “Jump in and join the party.”

About the Author

Josh Smith | Editor