In order to get the best out of any GSE, operators need to know the equipment; that is why so many GSE suppliers put training at the heart of their product and service offerings
German GSE supplier Goldhofer provides a wide range of training for operators of its tugs and tractors; exactly what that involves depends on the individual customer’s requirements. Stavros Hatziioannou, head of after sales and service in the company’s Airport Technology operation, explains that Goldhofer will provide on-site training when a vehicle is purchased, while its after-sales offering also includes individual courses on request.
“In general, we always try to provide training for our customers’ drivers and mechanics on-site,” Hatziioannou informs. “In order to familiarise them with the new equipment and enable them to build up their confidence, participants are given an opportunity to perform their first push-backs and practise repositioning and hangar towing.”
Goldhofer provides basic, advanced and continuous training courses, and their practical aspect – from the identification of parts and assemblies and their locations to working exercises – is of great importance, he continues. Moreover, the company will adapt the training course to the particular needs of the participants.
Standard Goldhofer training courses for a new tow tractor typically last between three and five days, depending on the vehicle involved. The programmes comprise driver instruction and technical training units. While driver instruction normally lasts a single day, the technical training is always geared to customers’ specific requirements and the existing experience and knowledge of the personnel who will operate the equipment. Generally, Goldhofer allows for between two and four days, depending on the tractor model, for this section of the programme.
The range of training on offer covers introductory training for technical personnel, like the basic training the customer receives upon commissioning the vehicle, advanced courses, professional training sessions including maintenance and repair, and train-the-trainer courses.
Says Hatziioannou: “Our training packages go far beyond the actual operation of the tow tractors. Our customers’ drivers and engineers are able to build up their technical know-how and gain valuable practical experience in all aspects of the electrics, hydraulics and maintenance.
“The courses are individually tailored to customers’ needs and in the ideal case are held on-site with experienced trainers so that customers’ employees benefit from a hands-on experience under real-life working conditions.”
Training obviously has a very high priority in view of the need to avoid injury and damage caused by incorrect operation of the units, as well as to guarantee a high level of vehicle availability, Hatziioannou notes. “We naturally wish to simplify how operators use our tractors, but at the same time operators have to comply with increasingly complex safety regulations. To meet these two requirements, we have integrated an intelligent user interface in the latest generation of our Phoenix tow tractors, for example.
“Instead of complexity and complicated procedures, the towbarless aircraft tractor – with its intuitive touchscreen, practical operator interface, emergency operation mode and remote maintenance functionality – offers easy handling that is quickly learned.
“In short, instruction is necessary because well-trained drivers and mechanics reduce total cost of ownership, increase vehicle reliability and maximise the return on investment,” Hatziioannou concludes.
Customised training packages
JBT AeroTech supplies a wide range of GSE and related services to the aviation industry, and – as with Goldhofer – training represents an important part of its overall offering and needs to be geared to the needs of the client. Says Eric Davis, JBT’s director – global customer care, “Our customers’ requirements determine when training for JBT equipment is provided. Many customers choose to include a training package as part of a new equipment purchase, while others choose to invest in training at a later date.
“This flexibility allows customers to decide what works best for their specific operational needs,” Davis notes.
Its training offering covers all aspects of JBT equipment ownership: effective maintenance practices to maximise machine serviceability; theory-based systems application training for effective issue diagnosis; and best-practice operational techniques for efficient use of equipment.
Instruction can be provided at a customer’s location if desired, at a JBT manufacturing facility or regional sales offices.
The length of the training package provided is dependent on the equipment model and type of training required, but typical training runs between three and four days. All of the training that JBT offers can be provided at any stage of equipment life, and so – says Davis – “provides further flexibility for equipment operators to account for changing operational requirements”.
JBT’s operator training focuses both on functional operation of the equipment (pre-operational checks, normal operations and emergency procedures) as well as helping operators understand how to use the equipment safely and most efficiently.
“There are two primary techniques that we employ to share this knowledge with operators,” Davis says.
First, “Hands-on training using real equipment is certainly the most effective,” he believes. “Operators work the actual equipment in the same environment in which they will perform their jobs.
“However, hands-on training is frequently not the most practical or feasible in a variety of circumstances (because of weather, flight scheduling, equipment availability and so on). For these reasons, equipment simulators may provide the best value for training.”
That second option, the use of simulators, is made available for training whenever it is convenient for the client. Simulators are not affected by weather or ramp conditions, they allow for greater trainee throughput, they can replicate multiple training scenarios not always available for hands-on training, and – most importantly – they provide a safer training environment for operators: one cannot damage aircraft or injure personnel in a virtual world.
JBT also offers maintenance training classes. These classes focus on two important areas of equipment upkeep: effective preventative maintenance and efficient issue diagnosis. While training on proper preventative maintenance is straightforward (covering maintenance procedures and schedules), proper diagnosis of issues is the crux of JBT maintenance training, Davis points out.
JBT employs a theory-based systems application approach to issue diagnosis. This method teaches equipment maintenance technicians the theory behind how various systems (mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, fluid and control) function and integrate with each other, offering what Davis describes as a systematic approach to issue identification and resolution.
Diagnosis of issues in this manner helps eliminate the ‘parts changer’ mentality, Davis continues, ultimately decreasing maintenance costs and reducing equipment downtime.
“Effective and comprehensive training is always a priority for JBT – experienced operators can use JBT equipment properly and more efficiently than can less experienced operators,” Davis stresses. “This in turn increases operational success and ultimately provides better value for the company.
“The increasing complexity of current generation ground support equipment in actuality tends to make it easier for operators, as more sophisticated control systems automate many functions that were previously accomplished manually. Ground crews are thus able to focus more on their core responsibilities of turning aircraft quickly, safely and efficiently,” he adds.
Vestergaard: training a ‘critical part’ of the package
For Danish GSE supplier Vestergaard, training on its de-icers is a “critical part of the package” that the company offers, says vice president sales and marketing Lars Barsoe. Indeed, training on any Vestergaard equipment supplied to a customer comes as an integrated part of the purchase price.
Between two and four days of training are provided on any de-icer either purchased or rented from the company (the majority are bought) – with that training including both operational use and effective maintenance of the equipment.
With regard to operations, that will not cover local regulatory requirements or standards pertaining to the equipment’s use around aircraft (which will differ across countries or states), but will take in everything else that an operator needs to make best use of the equipment – ie, not only for the safe use of the equipment, but to gain optimal benefit from its use.
This last point is vital, says Barsoe. Vestergaard de-icers offer a very high degree of capability but the benefits of its state-of-the-art equipment can only be maximised by a well-trained operator. So, training takes in all aspects of the functionality of the de-icer and how it is best operated.
With regards to maintenance, training covers the technical manual in its entirety, a process that usually takes two days. Pre-emptive maintenance is of course important to keep a machine in good working order, while effective, reactive repair and maintenance will get an out-of-action de-icer back into operation as quickly as possible.
Training is undertaken on-site for the customer. Some Vestergaard staff can provide both the operations and maintenance sides of the training package, but usually different people will travel to the customer to provide the different sorts of training. Even customers who already operate Vestergaard de-icers will be offered a brush-up on their skills, while also being trained on any new functionalities and capabilities the latest Vestergaard de-icers offer.
Technical training can also be performed at Vestergaard’s own premises if the customer so prefers, while a final element of the Vestergaard training portfolio is its simulator, which can either be leased or bought by customers for realistic training.