After extended periods of time, as well as advances in technology, airport ground support equipment will naturally become outdated and sometimes even obsolete. As these are expensive pieces of equipment, it's important that you put a replacement plan in place for your electric tugs, military aircraft GSE, baggage tractors and any other GSE you may have. Establishing a model to replace an aging fleet is dependent on a few things: your scope of operation, the frequency of operation and, of course, your budget. The following are some basic guidelines and considerations you should take into account when creating your GSE replacement plan.
Note that this is not an exhaustive guide and you should consult your ground support equipment maintenance manual, as well as your equipment manufacturer, for model-specific guidelines.
Know When Your GSE Is Obsolete And Outdated
Aircraft tow vehicles evolve at a rapid pace. A newer aircraft tow tractor or electric aircraft tug is much more efficient, easy to use and environmentally friendly than older, more traditional models.
It's crucial that you and your ground staff understand what to look for in obsolete or outdated aircraft GSE. The following are just a few of the warning signs that your equipment is on its way to becoming extinct.
- Starting up your older diesel-run tractor or tug is difficult, even in temperate climates.
- Your ground handling equipment burns a significant amount of petroleum.
- The diesel engines of your aircraft GSE emit a lot of carbon and have to run for long periods of time to achieve peak operating temperature.
- Operating configurations and controls aren't intuitive or user-friendly.
Establish A Budget
There is no set or standard budget you should be working with. Every organization has different financial situations and budgetary concerns. No matter what type of vehicle you need to replace, brand-new GSE is expensive. This is why it's so important to implement a phased-out replacement plan to help identify which equipment needs immediate attention. This can include everything from an obsolete cargo truck to an underused (or unused) baggage handling system. It's also crucial to identify equipment that costs more to repair and maintain than it's worth.
Establish a budget based on your organization's day-to-day equipment needs. As long as you have a ground support equipment maintenance plan in place and are regularly maintaining and servicing your GSE, you should be able to resell your equipment or even earn credit as a trade-in. Just understand that some obsolete equipment may have to be scrapped.
Understand the Scope of Your Operation
Take some time to really understand how your organization operates. Determine which pieces of airport ground support equipment get used the most. The equipment that is used most frequently typically will require the most maintenance and repair. It's also important to understand that the more a piece of GSE gets used, the more it will cost in overall energy.
Determine the real-world lifecycle per charge of your electric tow tractor. Look at the batteries. Can they be easily removed and quickly replaced or are they in a sealed unit that requires the equipment to be out of service for charging? These are the types of things that you should carefully consider when determining if your equipment is outdated.
Technological advances in battery design and power in recent years have resulted in never-before-seen charge usage and charge times. Electric tugs can now be fully charged in as little as three hours, providing enough power for 30 to 50 pushbacks (results that were typically only seen in diesel models).
Other Things To Consider
Every organization operates differently, and your replacement plan should be custom-tailored to your needs. Some airport ground support equipment, like air conditioning carts, doesn't change that much over time, and thus, you'll be able to keep your equipment for quite a long time. But other equipment, specifically aircraft tugs, sees incredible technological advancements on a pretty regular basis.
Look at everything we just went over and build a plan that works best for your employees and your ramp needs. Research what is available on the market versus what you legitimately need. And above all else, keep your ground handling employees in mind and consider what equipment will allow them to perform their best work safely and efficiently.
A popular GSE plan is to replace part of your fleet while continuing to maintain and operate older, but still efficient, equipment. Determine your must-have list of GSE requirements; this will allow you to budget properly in order to fill your needs. In the long term, when you take the time to plan out your GSE replacements, you'll spend less while keeping a top-notch fleet of equipment that is both healthy and reliable.