We take air travel for granted nowadays so it’s easy to forget that aircraft actually take a lot of looking after. Just to get them ready to take to the skies and keeping them well maintained requires a lot of work. The ground crews who perform this vital role have to depend upon certain specialist pieces of equipment supplied by companies like Red Box Aviation – www.redboxaviation.com – to enable them to do their jobs. These tools are often collectively referred to as ground support equipment. But what is this ground support equipment actually needed for and why would aircraft not be able to fly without it?
To begin with, let’s think about how an aircraft must be moved into and out of its parking slot. This operation requires a great deal of precision and control of something that could weigh from several thousand kilograms up to a hundred tonnes or more. It therefore requires a very specialist piece of aircraft moving equipment which is known as an aircraft tug. These tugs can range from small hand operated pieces of equipment that give powered assistance and can move aircraft up to around 5 tonnes to larger very powerful all-wheel drive vehicles that can move large passenger aircraft around with relative ease.
Moving an aircraft around on the ground is one thing, but providing the power to enable it to start its engines is a very different task again. Many aircraft require a ground power unit to supply them with power in the correct voltage to get their engines started. The precise requirements for this power vary from one aircraft to another. For some small aircraft 12V power is needed whilst many others require 24V or even 28V power units. As well as supplying power to start the aircraft, some ground power units can also provide a continuous source of power to the plane whilst it is on the ground. These continuous power units enable the on-board systems to run from the power supplied by the ground power unit. Add to this other specialist types of ground power equipment such as frequency converters etc. and you will start to see how complicated the issue of powering an aircraft whilst it is just sitting in its parking slot at an airport can be.
In addition to moving and powering an aircraft there are of course other tasks that are vital to keep it serviced and flying. One of the most important tasks is to ensure that the aircraft is in the right condition to take to the air. This testing and maintenance involves the use of specialist tools that are used to test, measure and maintain an aircraft’s systems in perfect working order. Tools are used that measure frequency as well as temperature to make sure that all readings meet the manufacturer’s required test scenarios.
The aircraft testing procedures mentioned above are one of the most critical operational activities that maintenance technicians perform and no corners are cut when carrying these tasks out. Each separate part of the aircraft, including the structure of the plane, the electrical systems, computer systems, fuel systems, landing gear and communication equipment, are all inspected and tested regularly, usually after a specified number of flight hours have been reached. Any issues found, no matter how minor, are dealt with immediately.
When carrying out these important inspections, and conducting their performance tests on various parts of the plane, the technicians rely upon some very specialist and highly accurate aviation tools, as well as some other, rather ingenious equipment. Along with the types of tools that you might be quite familiar with, they use things such as flexible camera systems (known as borescopes or fiberscopes). These ingenious types of camera can be used to gain visual access to areas of the aircraft that would normally be out of sight, allowing the technicians to see if there are any hidden problems.
So, next time you climb up the steps to get on an aircraft you’ll be a little bit more aware of some of the very specialist equipment that is being used behind the scenes to help make sure everything works just as it should and to ensure that the plane that you are on is able to take to the skies to carry you on your way.