One of the big issues in any airport environment is space. With multiple ground service providers each bringing their own equipment to the equation, space can quickly fill up, leading to delays and inevitably, damage to both the equipment and aircraft. According to the Flight Safety Foundation, this is currently estimated to cost airlines in excess of $5 billion annually.
So, can Ground Support Equipment Pooling contribute to reduced costs? Could it also be an opportunity to standardise training and improve safety?
Cost & space saving
Over the coming years, passenger numbers are only set to increase. The demand on staff, equipment and space will increase alongside this as airports will be busier than ever before. GSE pooling represents an innovative model that brings various benefits such as space and cost saving, as airport authorities will not only provide the equipment but also maintain it, ensuring that it’s up to date with the latest technological innovations.
With each airport, comes different considerations and potential obstacles. Based on contractual demands, some ground service operators may require more access to equipment than others which will more than likely result in some airports having a larger pool of equipment than others. However, even with these considerations in mind, pooling of equipment has been shown to considerably reduce the amount of space used on the apron by up to 25%.
Standardised GSE training
If handlers are using the same pool of ground support equipment, training will be greatly simplified in the fact that training programs can become consistent with one another, ensuring that operators receive the same standard of training and crucially, the same safety message. This will also allow for suitable monitoring and control of equipment, as well as a streamlined staff resourcing process if an operator is to move between ground handling companies.
Similar to any pooling scheme, a likely issue will be damage liability. With various potential users, damage to equipment is inevitable. Therefore, it is vital that a robust system be put in place to monitor any equipment damage, alongside a transformation in the behavioural culture on the airfield.
Luton Airport has been a key pioneer of this initiative. At the GSE Ramp Ops event in September, Liam Bolger, Head of Airside, pointed out some of the benefits they have seen from their own initiative. These included:
- 40% reduction in ramp congestion
- Over 95% reduction in equipment damage
- 44% reduction in delays caused by equipment shortage or breakdown
Another advocate of the scheme is Heathrow Airport, with as many as 9 handlers working across passenger and cargo loading activities at any one time, both efficiency and operating space are major challenges. Here, pooling is as much about management of resources, as it is about creating a supportive and cooperative atmosphere where ground handlers work together towards achieving a common goal.
Debate among ground handlers
Airport authorities can’t make the decision alone to commence the pooling scheme as it would involve a consultative process with ground handlers. This is key, not only from a buy-in perspective, but also when considering key planning decisions from the likes of which equipment would be pooled to which specifications should be prioritised. However, there is still debate among ground handlers with perceived loss of equipment and control over it.
The Future of GSE Pooling
Does this new model represent a threat within this highly competitive industry or do the advantages of less congestion, standardised training, improved equipment tracking, and reduced equipment costs outweigh the potential disadvantages?
What is clear is that this type of initiative requires close collaboration and a unified approach to the challenges facing an increasingly pressured airside environment.
RTITB Airside training consultancy services can help you identify ways to improve ground handling safety and training.