What is Ground Support Equipment?

And other frequently asked questions

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Have you ever wondered what that equipment is outside of your airplane window?

You are in luck because we get asked all the time. Here are some helpful answers.

What is ground support equipment (GSE)?

Ground support equipment or GSE, as it is commonly referred to, is equipment that is used at an airport to assist with airport operations i.e., moving airplanes, baggage, cargo, and people. There are many types of GSE but the most common pieces of equipment that people recognize are the baggage tractor and the baggage carts. These two pieces of equipment shuttle passenger baggage from the airport to airplane. Though these might be the most common pieces of equipment to see there are many more pieces of GSE that are just as or even more important to an airport’s operation. Next time you are on an airplane taxiing to or from the gate, look outside and you’ll see lots of equipment that you never knew existed. It plays a role in helping airplanes, airlines, and airports function smoothly. Here is a list of the most common GSE that you might encounter at the airport:Ground support equipment

Air conditioners

Aircraft stairs


Baggage carts

Baggage tractors

Belt loaders


Cargo loaders

Cargo tractors


Ground power units


Lavatory trucks



Towbarless pushbacks


The list of GSE above is a sampling of the most common equipment but isn’t all-inclusive. Generally, GSE is broken out into two groups: motorized and non-motorized. The motorized pieces have motors and the non-motorized do not. Xcēd leases, rents, and sells both motorized and non-motorized pieces of equipment.

Does the airport, airlines, or ground handlers own the equipment?

All the above. There is a common misconception that the airport owns the GSE and in some countries this is true, but in North America the majority of ground support equipment is owned by the either the airline or the ground handler that the airline subcontracts.

What is a ground handler?

Airlines like to subcontract the ground operations to ground handlers. These ground handlers win business through a bidding process that is put out by the airline. Once the ground handler is selected, it will provide the people and the equipment to perform the ground operation.

Do the airlines and ground handlers lease, rent, or purchase GSE?

All the above, depending on what they need. The airlines have traditionally purchased their ground support equipment, but some of them are starting to see the advantages of leasing their equipment from Xcēd. Ground handlers on the other hand prefer to both purchase and lease their GSE so that they have a well-balanced portfolio. Airlines and ground handlers also rent GSE when it makes sense, such as when a GSE manufacturer’s lead time is unexpectedly long or they acquire a new contract that has a quick start date.

What kind of services does Xcēd offer?

Xcēd leases, rents, and sells ground support equipment to airlines and ground handlers. We also have a shop located in Indianapolis where we keep inventory, as well as repair and refurbish used ground support equipment.

Who manufacturers ground support equipment?

There are many ground support manufacturers both in the US and abroad. Xcēd partners with all the major GSE manufacturers so that we can offer our customers the equipment they need in short order. Here is a list of some of the larger GSE manufacturers:

AERO Specialties



Eagle Tugs



Phoenix Metals

Textron GSE



If you don’t see a GSE manufacturer that you wish to work with, please contact us.

Why should I do business with Xcēd?

Our tagline is “your one stop for GSE.” This is largely the reason that our customers choose to do business with us. We lease, rent, and sell ground support equipment offering flexible terms and outstanding customer service.

What really sets us apart from our competitors is that we have ground support inventory on-hand. There are leasing companies that will lease your ground support equipment but finding a leasing company that stocks ground support equipment isn’t easy.

Xcēd only works with GSE so we know the equipment and we understand the industry. Our customers like the flexibility that leasing with Xcēd gives them. Since we understand the industry, we have many routes to market. This allows us to be flexible with our leases unlike many other lessors or banks. If you lose a contract or need a different piece of equipment, we can usually offer you flexibility that other GSE providers cannot. 

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