Some ground support equipment (GSE) users are rolling the dice and “doing without” when it comes to annual load testing and certification. The reasons for this generally run the gamut from cost or time pressure to outright carelessness.
The maintenance of ground support equipment at airports worldwide is oftentimes not taken seriously. Some companies feel that if a piece of equipment does not fly, it is not important. Unfortunately for the safety of the air traveling public as well as employees and professionals who work with aircraft, nothing could be further from the truth.
Ground support equipment is often maintained improperly because finding reputable technicians can be challenging. Ground service equipment comes in many shapes and sizes from many manufacturers to fulfill many roles, making it difficult for companies using GSE to maintain it.
Why Load Testing Is Important
It is impossible to guard against overloading a piece of ground support equipment if the crew does not know what the rated load is, or worse if the equipment is no longer able to sustain the load. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is through regularly scheduled load testing and certification. At a minimum, these tests should be conducted annually by a professional services firm like FlyTek Labs that specializes in GSE load testing.
Apart from the obvious safety reasons for regular load tests, there are economic reasons as well to perform regular inspections. This might seem counter-intuitive to a company that views load testing as too costly in terms of both service fees and related downtimes. Interestingly enough, exactly the opposite is true.
Maintenance, repair, and overhaul operators (MRO) with multiple locations potentially face tremendous financial repercussions if their ground support equipment is found to be out of date and not properly certified. Load test certifications are an important demonstration of a professional – and safe – operation.
Additionally, load testing and properly applied maintenance of ground support equipment can significantly reduce downtime. For example, the incidence of jack failure can be reduced by as much as a factor of three through proper load testing, inspections, and routine maintenance. Most operators find that the costs and time required for ongoing maintenance are ultimately far less than the costs incurred with a catastrophic failure.
Basic Steps for GSE Safety
Safety measures used to maintain GSE run the gamut from simple to more complex. The safety of all ground service operations starts with having standard operating procedures in place. Operators must be properly trained on how to operate and inspect the equipment. Most equipment manufacturers publish required service procedures on a periodic basis, typically semiannually or annually. Good safety procedures require that an operator adheres to the manufacturer recommendations.
Procedures should specify the protocols and metrics for day-to-day routine inspections as well as identify periodic maintenance requirements and related inspections. In addition, all new equipment should undergo a thorough inspection and testing as required. This also applies to equipment put back into service after extensive repairs.
One very fundamental aspect of ground support equipment safety is to never use it to raise or support a load greater than what the equipment is rated for. The improper use of GSE for lifting excessive loads is one of the most common causes of safety violations and serious accidents. Another important safety step is to ensure that the hydraulic systems are in good working order. Any signs of leaks, cracked fittings, or worn connectors should be rectified immediately.
Load Testing Requires Expertise
The key to effective ground service equipment load testing and certification is to find a service provider with demonstrated expertise in the field. At FlyTek Labs, our load testing and certification of aviation jacks ensures that our customers stay in compliance with manufacturers’ recommendations. MRO’s that try to undertake load testing as an in-house function are often tempted to forgo the process due to the time and costs involved. The myth is that it is much easier and less expensive to allow ground support equipment to run past inspection dates rather than have the proper service completed.
FlyTek Labs – a properly trained and equipped provider specializing in the load testing and certification of GSE – can complete testing very cost-effectively in terms of both time and money. For example, whereas load testing could take 3 to 4 weeks turnaround time to return to the manufacturer as well as shipping costs, FlyTek Labs’ experienced technicians could literally perform the test in an hour. A couple of recent examples will help illustrate where the real economies lie with regard to annual testing:
- An MRO with multiple locations was recently suspended from executing on a key contract because the GSE fleet had been allowed to run past due dates. It was not a lack of resources that had caused the decision to “do without”. Taking a unit out of service for the necessary time put too much pressure on an already intense schedule and so testing was allowed to lapse. The eventual result (following an end-user audit) was an exponential loss of time, money and most importantly customer confidence.
- In another case, a client switched to FlyTek for annual load testing and certification and found the incidence of jack failure reduced by a factor of 3. Having factory trained technicians evaluating and maintaining the units on an annual basis is the key to saving significant cost outlay in this area.
- Last but not least is a customer statement regarding the FlyTek mobile load testing and certification program: “This service has allowed us to reduce testing downtime from 3-4 weeks to an hour. It gives us the ability to function with fewer spares and far better utilization of our GSE fleet…a huge savings in both time and money!”
Let Our Experts Tackle Your Annual Load Testing and Certification
When you choose FlyTek Labs to perform your annual load testing and certification, we guarantee professionalism and technical expertise from our employees. Companies that hire FlyTek Labs as their load testing and certification vendor can operate with fewer spares and much better utilization of their ground support equipment. The key is to understand that ground service equipment is an integral part of the overall operation. Although GSE does not have the “curb appeal” of an actual aircraft, it is arguably more critical to the functioning and profitability of the MRO. FkyTek understands the true value and importance of GSE and can save the MRO a tremendous amount of time and money.