An Example of Leadership

April 27, 2009
The 2009 Ground Support Leaders of the Year awards ceremony recognized six recipients for contributions to the industry.

Just what exactly constitutes a leader is difficult to narrowly define, though a few common characteristics include fortitude, ceativity and expertise.

The following individuals and companies were recognized for exemplary leadership. The nominations were submitted by members of the industry, and then sent to our 16-member editorial advisory board for final vote. And this year’s recipients are ...

Team Leader of the Year
similar to the original Leader of the Year Award, this title is for an individual who has taken a leadership role with personnel
Joseph Fuqua, general manager of ground support equipment, Delta Air Lines Inc.

Joseph Fuqua began his career in the ground support industry in the United States Marine Corps. In 1979, he went into commercial aviation with Delta Air Lines as a mechanic. Over the past 30 years, Fuqua has held several positions at the airline as an engineer, supervisor and system manager.

Recently, Fuqua was promoted to general manager of ground support equipment for the merged Delta/Northwest airline. In the position he has taken responsibility for the daily activities and long-term planning of the GSE maintenance and the system stationary maintenance teams. He has also overseen the GSE engineering, technical publications, asset group, maintenance planning group, training, material planning and ULD teams, while overseeing capital, operating and technological budget planning and adherence.

According to Gil West, senior vice president of customer service at Delta, Fuqua’s history as a Marine has been beneficial in his leadership role. “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” West says. “In Joe’s case, it’s certainly true. I think that background has given him the skills he needs to be able to manage through a merger integration, so that comes in handy.”

“This is not an individual award,” Fuqua says. “It’s for a team and the Delta Airlines team, as far as I’m concerned, is the best. They have supported the entire airline, they have supported each other, and they have supported me. We’ve learned from each other, we will continue to learn from each other and continue to grow.”

Fuqua holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Columbia Southern University and undergraduate degrees in electronics and business administration. Fuqua serves as an active member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aviation Ground Equipment (AGE) committee, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) and is co-authoring the Standard for Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms ANSI A92.7 document.

Safety Leader of the Year Award
for a person or company that has introduced a new method, procedure or product to improve industry safety records.
JLG Industries

The concept behind the aerial work platforms of JLG Industries Inc. began in 1969 when John L. Grove recognized a special need for a piece of equipment that could safely accommodate personnel in performing overhead work.

A year later the company’s first aerial work platform was built with many of the basic design elements that are still incorporated in its products today.

Exemplifying a commitment to increased safety in the industry, the company manufactured the Model 740AJ Fall Arrest articulated boom lift. It features a platform with a moveable lanyard attachment point that allows the worker to safely leave the platform and move 270 degrees without the need to reattach the lanyard to another anchor point.

The model complies with OSHA 1926.502 regulations for fall protection and CAL/OSHA article 6, appendix C specification. The entire boom lift was also redesigned with added counterweight and puncture-proof foam tires that meet industry jet blast standards and provide additional safety for working around aircraft.

Kaizen Leader of the Year Award
Japanese for continuous incremental improvement, this award is for a person or company that has implemented a new business philosophy about workplace practices, focusing on efficiency and improvement in productivity, performance or processes
William Bohnett, manager, GSE, Allegiant Air

Two years out of college, William Bohnett began his career in GSE as an engineer with the Lantis Corporation, assisting in the design of the 818 pallet loader. He later helped redesign the 818 with the “swing-out” engine package before moving into the customer service department in 1988.

When TLD acquired Lantis, Bohnett was given reign over the Western territories, including Hawaii, and eventually gained his moniker, “Aloha Bill.”

Craving a separate venture within the ground support equipment business, Bohnett went to work for Sage Parts in 2002, which allowed him to branch out from pallet loaders and learn various equipment types.

In 2005, Bohnett and his family relocated to Las Vegas, where he decided to pursue something outside of the industry. “I was going to start anew and enjoy my final years before retirement,” he says. “A gentleman called me from Allegiant Airlines and said, ‘Bill, why don’t you come out here and see what we have to offer, I think you won’t be disappointed.’”

And he wasn’t. His new position with Allegiant Air allowed him to experience a completely new side of the industry. “I was given an opportunity to finally be the customer after being the vendor, the sales person, the service guy, the parts man, the engineer, the manufacturer,” he says.

In the time that Bohnett joined Allegiant, the airline has grown from 16 MD80s and two bases to more than 40 planes and five bases.

“With that additional complexities comes the need for strong management of ground support assets that are spread across the country,” says Sean Hopkins, vice president, supply management at Allegiant Air. “Bill has been actively involved in a number of recently instituted programs that have brought a focus to ground support equipment on both service levels and financial returns. This will permit us to provide a higher level of support at station operations and has led us to shift from being buyers of primarily used equipment to new.”

Bohnett attributes much of his abilities to his extensive experience in the industry. “Using the knowledge I’ve attained throughout my years in GSE has allowed me the opportunity to field equipment in our system that best suits its environment,” he says.

Green/Environmental Leader of the Year Award
for a person or a company that has introduced environmentally friendly equipment or processes

Beginning as a silk-weaving workshop in Lyon, France, in 1897, the company has come a long way to position itself as a leader in the manufacture of GSE, evolving to steel manufacturing for several types of industrial equipment to solely manufacturing GSE.

Today TLD serves airports, airlines, ground handlers, cargo airlines and military organizations in markets all around the world through its divisions in Europe, Asia and America.
The company has grown its extensive product line over the years to include aircraft pushback and baggage tractors, loaders, belt loaders, GPUs, ACUs, ASUs, passenger stairs, as well as specialized military equipment.

The company has also evolved to offer a range of alternative-fueled and regulation-compliant GSE, including electric loaders, tractors and belt loaders, the gasoline-fueled JST tractor series and the TPX-100-E electric towbarless tractor.
Scott Gordon, executive vice president of TLD America, says the award is a great honor when considering others in the industry that have made strides in producing environmentally friendly equipment. “There are many, many good suppliers and good people in this industry that have come a long way in the past 5 to 10 years and I’m just very thankful and flattered,” he says.

Engineer/Innovator Leader of the Year
for a company or person that has introduced a revolutionary product
Robert Engholm, president, Interphasic LLC

Robert Engholm has racked up more than 22 years in the electronics industry, and many of his engineering accomplishments have come with the design elements of aircraft loaders. His experience began as an engineer with the Lantis Corporation in 1987. When the company was acquired by TLD, he set out to revolutionize the design for the company’s new 828 and 929 model loaders.

“The engineering staff was allowed to have a blank piece of paper to work from, which as an engineer being given a blank piece of paper was very dangerous, so I started to design and think about what the industry really needs,” he says.

Engholm went on to design the first drive-by-wire, full diagnostic, two-computer control system used in the GSE industry, which is still in use today.

Engholm developed a number of notable designs for aircraft loaders: a platform auto leveling system for tracking aircraft movement to provide stability in cargo transfer, and an infrared diagnostic system that allowed personnel full control over a loader with a hand remote.

In his time with the company, Engholm held several positions that required oversight of the engineering work of the company, including engineering manager. In that position, he also contributed his expertise through the production of technical product presentations and the standardization of components and technology with the company’s divisions in France. He also went on to become the product liability manager.

When TLD moved its headquarters to Canada, Engholm decided to go into business for himself, founding Interphasic LLC. Engholm has continued his innovative engineering efforts with Interphasic, which is in the business of producing electronic digital controllers for mobile hydraulic equipment.

Engholm is a graduate of DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix and a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers Inc. His hobbies include restoring vintage Honda Trail 70 motorcycles and, having recently acquired his private pilot’s certificate, flying over his hometown of Monterey, California, where he still resides.

Lifetime Achievement Award
for a person who has demonstrated commitment to the industry through a lifetime of dedicated service
Henry Foster, president, Fortbrand Services Inc.

Henry Foster began his lifetime in the ground support industry more than 40 years ago when he began working for the Hertz rental company. “I learned the rental business and a part of my responsibilities was calling on the New York Metropolitan Airports,” Foster says. “And I was renting basically trucks and small pallet trucks and stuff like that to the various airlines during the early 60s and of course they were growing at the time, so rental was a big part of their GSE.”

When American Airlines came calling for freight carts, it spurred Foster to go into business himself, though he admitted he had much to learn. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he laughs. “I ended up towing the carts in the back of my car across the George Washington Bridge. Of course, by the time I got the carts from New Jersey to New York, all the wheel bearings were shot because I was towing them too fast.”

But learn he did, and he grew the business by acquiring additional types of equipment. In 1966, Foster sold the company to Hudson General (now Servisair), staying on with the company until the 1980s.

When he left Hudson General in the 1980s, Foster decided to go into business for himself once again by founding Fortbrand Services Inc. The company has specialized in the sales, leasing and financing of a diverse line of ground support products. He has maintained an active role with the company as its president.

“At Fortbrand, Henry serves as the patriarch of the close-knit Fortbrand family — imparting his years of business and equipment knowledge to the younger members of the team and always giving a word of encouragement to anyone he feels needs it, whether it’s a new sales person or a seasoned mechanic,” says Peter Stearn, vice president of Fortbrand. “All who work for Fortbrand know that Henry is generous with both his time and his resources.

“Still going strong at 77, Henry’s energy and unbridled enthusiasm for the world of GSE serve as a true inspiration for the Fortbrand team and all in the GSE industry with whom he comes in contact,” Stearn says.

Having been within the industry more than four decades, Foster has learned to continually adapt to the change. “I guess this is an industry that is changing so rapidly that if you get into this business, that you better be able to accommodate these changes or you won’t survive,” he says.

“One wonders whether [the Lifetime Achievement Award] is for achievement or survival,” he adds.

As challenging as a lifetime in the industry has proven at times, Foster says his fondest memories are with his “old buddies” in the industry. “People who worked in this industry, I think, had good values, and they gave me an opportunity to grow my business and establish long-term business and personal relationships,” he says. “It’s been good to me.”

Foster, who will be turning 78 in July, says he plans to continue his work in the industry, still relishing the thrill of closing a deal. “I don’t have any immediate plans,” he says. “I enjoy it. Every once in a while I get involved in working on a lease deal. I still find a good deal of excitement about it. Working on a lease or rental arrangement is still fun.”

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