A Home Run

Dec. 15, 2004
Tom Osborn's life in aviation...and baseball, has made it possible for March GlobalPort to make the major leagues.

Tom Osborn, current COO of March Ground Services and owner of GSE Consulting, starts his story with his father, a man with passion for baseball and aviation.

As a boy, Osborn Senior was Babe Ruth's bat boy in Detroit and as a young man played in the minor leagues with the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. While in the Navy he was on the Navy team and played against Joe DiMaggio in San Diego.

Aviation ignited in the Senior Osborn while he worked as a mechanic for Capital Airlines out of Detroit. He saw an opportunity to own his own company which led him to open a string of first-class FBOs called A&A Aircraft and Airport Services in Michigan, New York and Texas, all with "yes-sir," "no-madam" service.

"He was an extremely sharp business man. He believed in providing more than what the customer asks for, and he became quite successful at it," says Osborn.

After the FBOs were bought by Butler Aviation in the early 70's, Osborn Senior started Osborn Ground Equipment because he saw a need in the industry for new and used ground support equipment -not just the manufacturing, but the refurbishing and complete overhauling or zero timing of equipment. It became so successful, he asked his son Tom to leave his job and become part of the business. "I'll teach you everything I can teach you," said Osborn Senior.

In the mid 70's Osborn Senior moved to Charlotte, NC, to assist and restructure a struggling FBO while moving the GSE business forward. Once the FBO was organized and making money again the father and son duo turned all their efforts to GSE and the business, now renamed Carolina Aviation. "I joined him [in NC] and things took off like crazy," says Osborn. We sold new and used equipment, and started building work stands, lav carts, water carts and more.

Later in life Osborn Senior wanted to live in Florida as it is home of spring training for 20 of the 30 major league baseball teams. He convinced Tom to move and in 1979 Carolina Aviation became Cavco of Florida. Several successful years followed with the Osborn's reaching beyond aviation, designing and building 45 carts for the half-time show of Super Bowl XXII in San Diego. Eventually, Osborn Senior retired. "I used to take him to Major League Spring Training and Vero Beach Dodger Games," recalls Osborn, before he passed in November 2003.

Tom Osborn grew Cavco of Florida into GSE Consulting, a firm that offers a variety of consulting services in the realm of aviation ground support operations. "I saw a need to pass on what I have learned in this industry, and found it to be valuable," he says.


Seven years ago, BRAC, base relocation and closure, "realigned" the March Air Base in Moreno Valley, CA, leaving half of the base vacant; buildings, facilities, ramp area, etc. Relabeled civilian, that section was turned over to the March JPA (joint powers authority) who put out bid requests to commercialize it and turn it into an air cargo and distribution development location. The Lynxs Group bid and won in 1997. According to Ray Brimble, owner of Lynxs and founding partner for the airport, "we formed the company ? March GlobalPort to market and develop the civilian part of the base." Brimble approached Osborn to aid in the project. Osborn remembers: "They asked me if I would assist and help them create a business plan and build a cargo service company to service cargo airlines from all over the world, especially bulk freight, cargo perishables, hazardous, everything."

After several meetings, the plan took shape and March GlobalPort would have an integrated partner, March Ground Services, for the cargo and ground handling needs of its customers. "We couldn't attract the cargo carriers without the operations and the ground handling," says Brimble, "so we have it all, but we also wanted to control the cost and still make it competitive, which is why we created March Ground Services and didn't hire an outside vendor."


Located on Interstate 215, March GlobalPort is less than an hour away from LAX/ONT, but not hindered by LAX arrival or departure procedures and able to handle more than 1.2 million tons of cargo per year. It has the longest runway in California with reasonable airport fees.

According to Osborn, people will fly in here because the logistics work out for them. March Ground Services will offer freight 24 hours a day and there won't be time limits or constraints or limits on size. "We'll handle anything," he says.Brimble adds: "We're going to run a good airport and be good neighbors."


March GlobalPort has been redesigned to handle major integrated air carriers as well as charters and other scheduled carriers, maintains Brimble. A new road, instrument landing systems, fuel farm system and more have been happening at March GlobalPort to get it ready for its debut. First impressions are important, says Osborn. "When we go into full start up, we want to do everything right from day one." March Ground Services will provide manual labor for all fueling, loading, unloading and ground handling for aircraft from wide-body 747s and DC-10s to narrow body aircraft, anything that comes in, indicates Osborn. The JPA recruited a customs agent on-site, as well as implemented top TSA security. Per Osborn, many airports have custom agents, but in most cases goods must be transported to the warehouse and it usually takes a while to clear them. "We'll have a custom agent right there who can clear things right away, since time is always a factor in air cargo."

With the growth in aviation, Osborn estimates there will be limited space at current southern California airports, so March GlobalPort will open doors for airlines running special freights needing extra flights or more flexible times. What's really unique about this service is that most major airports transport cargo on dollies from the aircraft to warehouse, where they break it down and sort it before transporting it out. March Ground Services, can do that, but is also set up to unload the cargo from the aircraft and place it directly on trucks for shipping to any location without breaking it down. Griley Air Freight trucking company has already agreed to dedicate its fleet of 53-foot roller bed trucks to transport the cargo wherever it needs to go, serving the LA Basin and Inland Empire, including other airports. This gives the customer more flexibility and is often cheaper. March Ground Services will be able to handle odd sizes, massive weight or bulk cargo requiring special equipment and trained personnel, including perishables with a specially equipped warehouse.


"Everything we're doing, we're trying to do cutting edge," Osborn adds proudly. That goes beyond services to personnel and training. "It's a combination of having a good program and sharing knowledge." Some companies are afraid of sharing inside knowledge with their people because if the employee leaves, he or she might pass that information to their competitors or steal their ideas, but Osborn believes if you invest your time in people, they will invest in the business and that will make a better, stronger business with more valuable employees. "It's a philosophy of growth," he says. "I also believe in sharing the wealth. If your employees are the source of your success and growth, you need you share that with them. Nothing is greater than for your employees to feel that they have vested ownership and interest and a voice in the company."

March Ground Services plans to use competitive salaries and good benefits to invite and retain employees. Osborn also plans on thorough training where the employees feel comfortable with the requirements and safety procedures of their jobs and not rushed to get out on the ramp. Osborn believes in synergy, bringing his employees together to solve problems and rewarding them, either monetarily or with recognition for efficient solutions or knowledge sharing.


Being a joint operating facility with the US Air Force Reserve, March GlobalPort enjoys several benefits. The main operations are shared by the civilian and military aircraft: runways; crash, fire and rescue; power; etc. and the tower is operated 24hrs/day, seven days a week by the USAF. Also, due to the base cost structure, a majority of operating costs are paid for by the military, allowing March a chance to grow its business. "They really want the civilian side of the base to work so we can carry more of the financial burden," says Brimble, "It's been great [working with the Military]." Osborn agrees: "The Military has been extremely cooperative and interested in our future," he says. A certain camaraderie has developed between the two and there's much sharing of knowledge.

Brimble remembers an initial concern for March GlobalPort, 'would the civilian take-offs and landings endanger Military operations if an emergency situation arose,' and visa versa 'would Military operations affect commercial flight schedules?.' His answer is two-fold. As for March GlobalPort, the landing and take-off caps are so high, there will be no problem with the volume of flights, and secondly, the government can take over any US airport in a time of war or national emergency, so March GlobalPort is no different in that regard.


Although still interviewing and hiring for key positions, March Ground Services is on schedule with training personnel, equipment delivery and should be operational in the next few months. Osborn is still involved, laying the ground work for the "first-class," quality service he learned from his father and creating a well organized company, which a number of cargo airlines are looking to join, including DHL who is considering March, San Bernadino or Ontario. "Expect, in very short order, a major announcement at the base," says Brimble.

Osborn, Brimble, JPA and the others who shared the vision of March GlobalPort and March Ground Services developed the airport knowing "if you build it, they will come."