How Ground Support Running Gear Keeps Commercial Flights Moving

Have you ever wondered how a massive commercial aircraft weighing thousands of pounds effortlessly moves across the tarmac, maneuvers tight spaces at airport gates, or undergoes essential maintenance while grounded? The answer lies in the specialized equipment known as ground support running gear.

For airlines, where the skies mean everything and efficiency is paramount, this equipment is critical in ensuring winsome operations and timely flights. Whether it is towing tractors or aircraft jacks, ground support running gear is key for precisely and safely managing aircraft ground handling purposes.

This article explores the various functions, types, innovations, and the indispensable contribution of ground support running gear to the commercial aviation industry.

What is a Ground Support Running Gear?

The term “ground support running gear” means the specific equipment designed for the earth’s surface to support different aircraft component handling, inspection, and service processes.

The aviation industry designs the ground support equipment utilized by the industry to provide safe and timely aircraft, passenger, and cargo movements. Airline operations would not exist in the first place if this infrastructure were not in the picture. This would mean that there would certainly be significant delays and financial losses for airlines and airports.

Ground Support Equipment Needed in Ground Aircraft Movements

Ground Support Equipment (GSE) consists of aircraft tow tugs, towbars or tow barless tugs, pushbacks, apron maintenance stands, GPU stands, lifts, and jacks.

Aircraft Towing Tractors

Airplane tractor dies are sophisticated machines that are used for the movement of aircraft on the ground. They have been highly developed, and they have powerful engines and heavy-duty towing systems to accommodate different types of airplanes. These tractors are the key agents for transporting aircraft within airport boundaries and between permanent hangars or maintenance areas.

The movement of aircraft on the ground is one of the critical tasks that has to be done in a specific way with a high level of safety. The tractor is the main piece that allows the aircraft to be towed and for the airplanes and the ground equipment to be damage-free during ground transportation. Their wide maneuverability and high pulling power are a unique advantage of the armored vehicles on the land operations.

Furthermore, while the selection of chains for driving wheels significantly impacts the efficiency and durability of treads, the specific running gear wheel details also have an equally important role.

Aircraft Towbars

Aircraft tow bars are special parts that link a towing tractor and the nose or land gear of the aircraft. These systems are made to bear the strong forces involved in towing aircraft and can be ordered in different types to accommodate the aircraft models and their configurations.

The towbar is the central part of the towing system, being the pathway through which the towing power flows from the tractor to the aircraft’s main landing gear. Without these ground handling components, a safe and effective aircraft movement, be it on the runway or taxi track, will not be possible thus, the ground support running gear is a must.

Pushback Tugs

ATC pushback tugs are designed to push aircraft back from gates or hardstands. These trucks have the ability to start with a powerful engine and a robust tow mechanism, which will enable the pushback of these aircraft onto the taxiway ready for departure.

Tugback operation, along with moving aircraft from the gate, is a crucial feature that requires the highest degree of accuracy and coordination. This is where the pushback tugs become an essential tool in the process. Pushback tugs are used to move the aircraft along the taxiway and position it accurately without causing any damage to the aircraft or ground equipment.

These aircraft’s characteristic design and capability make them irreplaceable because they are mentioned to be responsible for ensuring smooth airport operations, which are planned in advance via flight plans.

Ground Support Equipment for Maintenance and Servicing

Aircraft Jacks and Lifts

Aircraft jacks and lift sets serve to raise and support aircraft from below and over during the course of maintenance and repair processes. The fleet of these tools often consists of different sizes and dimensions while they can serve multiple aircraft models and be used in different parts of an aircraft for maintenance purposes.

Aircraft maintenance is vital to aviation and ensuring the aircraft’s safety and airworthiness. The function of the aircraft jacks and lifting tools in this procedure is pivotal as they enable getting to working areas that necessitate the evaluation, service, or removal of various systems and components. Specific equipment designed for this purpose will make these jobs much easier and quicker; otherwise, they will likely prevent a shipment from being on time and increase operational costs.

Ground Power Units (GPUs)

Ground power units (GPUs) are a kind of equipment that produces the needed electricity for the plane that is idling on the runway. These units are available in different models, such as diesel, gas, and electric. They can supply sufficient electrical power for all the systems needed on board an aircraft and other equipment.

The parked airplanes regularly need electrical power provided by the grounding system to keep important systems active and passengers comfortable. Ground power units are critical for powering aircraft systems, providing a seamless mobile experience during boarding or deplaning and ultimately leading to the passengers’ comfort and safety. Without these units, aircraft cannot check for electrical systems. Thus, the ground operations may be extremely delayed. This could potentially disrupt many operational processes as well.

Aircraft Maintenance Stands

Aircraft maintenance stands are complex standing structures built especially for the purpose of facilitating access to various parts of an airplane during its maintenance and servicing procedures. Portable or stationary, they may also transform into specialized sets referring to particular aircraft or maintenance jobs.

Routine duties frequently involve a technician climbing the ladder or working hands-on in various difficult aircraft areas, such as the fuselage, wings, or engines. The proper aircraft maintenance systems that can make these operations easier by creating a stable working environment for technicians are critical. The lack of dedicated stands means that the maintenance would grapple with greater complexities and probably harbor significant risks in addition to operational inefficiencies.

Operational Complications in the Area of Ground Support Operations

1. Safety Concerns

The main safety issue seems to be related to the operations and maneuvers of large aircraft that exert great risks on the crew, equipment, and facilities. Good training, stringent rules for safety protocols, and reliable safety features are the only things that can mitigate the risks.

2. Training Requirements on Using the Equipment

On the other hand, there are training requirements for staff to use these specialized equipment accurately and securely. Mission support equipment is often highly sophisticated and involves multiple systems, only operable by highly skilled and proficient operators who know how to respond to any problem or emergency successfully.


Along with the growth and changes the aviation industry will undergo, their reliance on ground support running gear will surely rise. The usefulness of such equipment is growing thanks to technology, environmental thinking, and the specificity of safety and efficiency. This equipment will improve together with the industry that demands it.

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