Ground support equipment

Ground support equipment

Ground support equipment (GSE) is found at an airport, usually on the ramp, the servicing area by the terminal. This equipment is used to service the aircraft between flights. As its name implies, GSE is there to support the operations of aircraft on the ground. The functions that this equipment plays generally involve ground power operations, aircraft mobility, and loading operations (for both cargo and passengers).


Many airlines subcontract ground handling to an airport or a handling agent, or even to another airline. Ground handling addresses the many service requirements of a passenger aircraft between the time it arrives at a terminal gate and the time it departs on its next flight. Speed, efficiency, and accuracy are important in ground handling services in order to minimize the turnaround time (the time during which the aircraft remains parked at the gate).

Small airlines sometimes subcontract maintenance to a much larger and reputable carrier, as it is a short-term cheaper alternative to setting up an independent maintenance base. Some airlines may enter into a "Maintenance and Ground Support Agreement" (MAGSA) with each other, which is used by airlines to assess costs for maintenance and support to aircraft.

Most ground services are not directly related to the actual flying of the aircraft, and instead involve other service tasks. Cabin services ensure passenger comfort and safety. They include such tasks as cleaning the passenger cabin and replenishment of on-board consumables or washable items such as soap, pillows, tissues, blankets, and magazines. Security checks are also made to make sure no threats have been left on the aircraft.


Chocks are used to prevent an aircraft from moving while parked at the gate or in a hangar. Chocks are placed in the front ('fore') and back ('aft') of the wheels of landing gear. They are made out of hard wood or hard rubber. Corporate safety guidelines in the USA almost always specify that chocks must be used in a pair on the same wheel and they must be placed in physical contact with the wheel. Therefore, "Chocks" refers to a pair of chocks connected by a segment of rope or cable.

Chock is also a verb, as in, "You need to chock that belt loader if you're going to leave it parked there," or, "As I was chocking the nose gear, the aircrafts engines were still spinning down."

Non-powered equipment

Bag carts

Baggage carts are used for the transportation of luggage, mail, cargo and other materials between the aircraft and the terminal or sorting facility. Carts are fitted with a brake system which blocks the wheels from moving when the connecting rod is not attached to a tug. Most carts are completely enclosed except for the sides which use plastic curtains to protect items from weather.

Dollies for containers and pallets

The trolley for containers and palettes are used for the transport of loads placed in containers and on pallets. The both kinds of trolley have inbuilt rollers or balls in the space for the acceptance of containers or pallets for their easier moving. The containers or pallets on trolleys must obligatory be secured with built-in fuses. The mechanical brake, depending on construction blocks the wheels when the pole of trolley is raised in air or is on the ground. The trolleys for containers have revolving pattern to make containers turned around in direction of loading on aircraft. On all trolleys the parts as brake for wheels blocking, the wheels, the pole, the hook for connecting, fuses of revolving platform, and fuses for blocking containers or pallets must be in order or with them is prohibited any transport.

Powered equipment


Aircraft refuellers can be either a self contained fuel truck, or a hydrant truck or cart. Fuel trucks are self contained, typically containing up to 10,000 US gallons of fuel and have their own pumps, filters, hoses, and other equipment. A hydrant cart or truck hooks into a central pipeline network and provides fuel to the aircraft. There is a significant advantage with hydrant systems when compared to fuel trucks, as fuel trucks must be periodically replenished.

Tugs and tractors

The tugs tractors at an airport have several purposes and represent the essential part of ground support services. They are used to move any equipment that can not move itself. This includes bag carts, mobile air conditioning units, air starters, lavatory carts, and other equipment.

Ground power units

A ground power unit is a vehicle capable of supplying power to aircraft parked on the ground. Ground power units may also be built into the jetway, making it even easier to supply electrical power to aircraft. All aircraft require 28V of direct current and 110V 400 Hz of alternating current. The electric energy is carried from a generator to a connection on the aircraft via a very thick cable. These connectors are standard for all aircraft.


Buses at airports are used to move people from the terminal to either an aircraft or another terminal. Some airports use buses that are raised to the level of a passenger terminal and can only be accessed from a door on the 2nd level of the terminal. These odd looking buses are usually referred to as "people movers" or "mobile lounges".

Container loader

The loader for widebodied aircraft (cargo platform) is used for loading and unloading of cargo placed in containers or on pallete. The loader has two platforms which independently raise or come down. The containers or palettes on the loader are moved with the help of built-in rollers or wheels, and are carried in aircraft across the platforms.


The transporters are cargo platforms constructed so that beside loading and unloading can transport cargo. Depending on the type and load capacity the containers could be transported, and the same is valid for greater transporters and palettes.

Air starter

An air starter is a vehicle with a built-in gas turbine engine which, during the start of aircraft engine, gives the necessary quantity of air to start the engine. While a compressor cannot deliver the necessary quantity of air for its own work, the air is provided by an air starter. An air starter blows air in by a hose attached to aircraft.

Potable water trucks

Potable water trucks are special vehicles that fill up drinking water tanks in aircraft. The water is filtered and protected from the elements while being stored on the vehicle. A pump in the vehicle assists in moving the water from the truck to the aircraft.

Lavatory service vehicles

Lavatory service vehicles empty and refill lavatories onboard aircraft. Waste is stored in tanks on the aircraft until these vehicles can empty them and get rid of the waste. After the tank is emptied, it is refilled with a mixture of water and a disinfecting concentrate, commonly called 'blue juice'. Instead of a self-powered vehicle, some airports have lavatory carts, which are smaller and must be pulled by tug.

Catering vehicle

Catering includes the unloading of unused food and drink from the aircraft, and the loading of fresh food and drinks for passengers and crew. The meals are typically delivered in standardized carts. Meals are prepared mostly on the ground in order to minimize the amount of preparation (apart from chilling or reheating) required in the air.

The catering vehicle consists of a rear body, lifting system, platform and an electro-hydraulic control mechanism. The vehicle can be lifted up, down and the platform can be moved to place in front of the aircraft.

Belt loaders

Belt loaders are vehicles with movable belts that allow for easy and fast unloading and loading of baggage and cargo. A belt loader is driven up to the open space in bottom of an aircraft, known as a bin or pit. Belt loaders are used mostly on smaller aircraft that do not use containers. Baggage stored without containers is known as bulk loading.

Passenger boarding stairs

Passenger boarding stairs, sometimes referred to as 'air-stairs', are used to provide a way to transport people from the ground to and from an aircraft. Since most aircraft are very high off the ground, stairs allow people to board and unboard safely and efficiently. These stairs are mobile and usually self-powered. Most stairs can vary their height to accommodate a wide range of aircraft.

Pushback tugs and tractors

Pushback tugs are mostly used to push an aircraft away from the gate when it is ready to leave. These tugs are very powerful and because of the large engines, are sometimes referred to as an engine with wheels. Pushback tugs can also be used to pull aircraft in various situations, such as to a hangar. Different size tugs are required for different size aircraft. Some tugs use a tow-bar as a connection between the tug and the aircraft, while other tugs lift the nose gear off the ground to make it easier to tow or push.

De/anti-icing vehicles

The procedure of de/anti-icing, protection from fluids freezing up on aircraft, is done from special vehicles. These vehicles have booms, like a cherry picker, to allow easy access to the entire aircraft. A hose sprays a special mixture that melts current ice on the aircraft and also prevents some ice from building up while waiting on the ground.

ee also

* Aircraft ground handling
* Pushback

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