Aircraft take a lot of looking after. Just to get them ready to take to the skies and keeping them properly maintained requires a lot of work. The ground crews who perform this vital role have to rely upon certain specialist pieces of equipment and tools to help the ground crews do their jobs. These tools is collectively referred to as ground support equipment. But what is this ground support equipment actually needed for? Well, let's think about how an aircraft is moved into and out of its parking slot. This manoeuvre requires a degree of precision and control of something that could weigh anything from several thousand KG up to a hundred tonnes or more. It therefore needs a very specialist piece of aircraft moving equipment which is known as an aircraft tug. These aircraft tugs can range from small hand operated pieces of equipment that give powered assistance and that can move aircraft up to around 5 tonnes to larger all-wheel drive vehicles that can move large passenger aircraft around with relative ease.
Moving an aircraft around 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 in order to get their engines started. The exact requirements for this power vary from one aircraft to another. For some small aircraft the requirement is for 12V power whilst many others require 24V or even 28V power units. As well as supplying the necessary power to start the aircraft some of these units can also provide a continuous source of power to the plane whilst it is on the ground. These power units enable the on-board systems to run from the power supplied by the ground power unit - or GPU as they are sometimes called. Add to this other specialist types of ground power equipment like transformer rectifier units etc. and you will begin to realise how complex the whole issue of powering an aircraft can be.
In addition to moving and powering an aircraft there are of course other tasks that are vital to keep it maintained and flying. Specialist tools are used to test, measure and maintain an aircraft's systems in perfect working order. These include tools to measure current and temperature to ensure that all readings meet the Manufacturer's required test scenarios. So, next time you get on board an aircraft spare a thought for all of the hard work that has gone into making sure that it can fly safely and all of the special equipment that has been used in helping the aircraft get you to your destination.