One Foot at a Time

Feb. 9, 2007
From Aer Lingus phone operator to president and COO of Servisair/GlobeGround, Fred DiBenedetto is living the American dream.

As a founding member of the Airline Services Council, how do you think the council has affected the ground support industry?

The NATA Airline Services Council was primarily formed to provide a clear voice about our segment of the industry in the public policy arena. The ASC has enabled us to present the airline service industry's point of view to the legislative and regulatory decision makers. I believe that our greatest accomplishment has been to make Capitol Hill aware of our contribution to the success of aviation operations. For example, members of ASC recently met with the TSA Administrator to discuss the impact of the cargo screening requirements on the aviation ground service providers. In addition, being part of [NATA] gives the ASC members a solid platform to address issues of common interest, such as safety, training, security and the environment.

How did you get into GSE?

As my good friend Rich Boily might say: "one foot at a time." Actually, I was first exposed to aviation while working at Boston's Logan International Airport as an interpreter and foreign currency teller. The year was 1967, the hours were flexible—leaving plenty of time for study—and the $3.50 hourly rate was almost three times the minimum wage. In the spring of 1968, Aer Lingus employed me. It took a lot of courage for Pat Deasy, the station manager, to break new ground, as I was the first Italian to work for the Irish airline in BOS. Answering the phone was a challenge, I had the highest percentage of callers hanging up!

While still attending Northeastern University in 1969, I began working as a ramp agent for the company that was later known as Hudson General. By then, I was fully "into GSE."

Having worked on each end of the ground support spectrum, which position was the most memorable?

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to begin my aviation career with a small company. It forced me to become familiar with the various aspects of managing a business. The position where I was responsible for day-to-day operations for Hudson General, as senior VP operations, was both challenging and rewarding. At that level, I was able to directly influence service delivery to our customers, to work closely with managers and hourly employees, to negotiate with suppliers and GSE manufacturers and to promote safety and training. It was most enjoyable to be part of a team of professionals focused on the details of managing a successful business. Personal satisfaction was achieved when our customers told us that we were not the least expensive among our competitors, but we were worth the difference.

Was there anyone you looked up to as you entered the industry?

Most definitely. His name was Parker Ward. When I first met Parker, he was vice president for Van Dusen Aviation. Barely twenty and just entering a whole new world, he taught me how to be patient during contract negotiations, whether with a customer, an authority or labor organization. He also taught me that respect from others is best obtained by being honest and ethical in all aspects of one's business dealings.

If not in GSE, where would you be?

By nature, I usually don't look back and try to rewrite history. I prefer to learn from the past rather than try to relive it. As I continued to work at the [Logan Airport] the jet fumes must have influenced my decision to change to business. The rest is history.

What golden nuggets of wisdom would you like to pass on to our readers?

This is not an industry where you will get rich, easily. It has been said that this industry has created more millionaires out of billionaires than any other industry! All kidding aside, where else can someone work in an environment where your individual actions are not only factors in the equation of success, but are compounded by the ability to properly manage aircraft operations, personnel issues, security, weather, etc? These are just a few of the challenges for the well educated, strong, disciplined, confident and energetic types.

For more about Fred and his experiences in the industry, visit to read this interview in its entirety.