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Hydraulic Ground Support Equipment Maintenance Guide

Hydraulic ground support equipment (GSE) typically has a long lifespan if properly maintained and operated. If GSE maintenance schedules are not followed, or if operators are misusing equipment, hydraulic ground support equipment can potentially contaminate an aircraft's hydraulic system, damaging sensitive components and potentially putting aircraft out of commission. In this guide, we'll walk you through some high-level preventive maintenance practices that personnel should complete on aircraft hydraulic ground support equipment to ensure safe operating procedures at all times.

Keep in mind that this guide should only be used as a supplement to your original equipment manufacturer's (OEM) maintenance manual.

Before we start, it's essential to understand the three major elements of proper hydraulic ground support equipment use. When working with hydraulic ground support equipment, you must:

  • 1. Know the condition of the fluid and equipment components
  • 2. Keep contamination levels at an acceptable rate
  • 3. Always operate equipment in accordance with the OEM manual

Once you understand how to use hydraulic maintenance equipment properly, you can implement a thorough GSE maintenance and troubleshooting program.

Hydraulic Ground Support Equipment Types

Did you know that most GSE systems include some form of hydraulics? The following are just a few pieces of hydraulic ground support equipment commonly found at airports:

Setting Up A Contamination Control Program

The first step airports and private aerospace facilities should take is setting up a comprehensive contamination control program for hydraulic ground support equipment. Contamination control programs are the foundation for any successful hydraulic GSE maintenance plan and are the backbone to successful continued operations.

Contamination issues in hydraulic ground support equipment fluid are typically linked to one of four major contaminant categories:

  • Particle Contamination: Solid foreign material
  • Water Contamination: Free water or water found in a solution
  • Air Contamination: From a foreign source or fluid deterioration
  • Chemical Contamination: Either entrained or dissolved in the fluid

To prevent these contaminants from entering hydraulic ground support equipment systems, you'll need to ensure that you have a contamination control program in place. Typically, these control programs can be split into six steps.

1. A Company-Wide Agreement Of Support

First, airports want to ensure a company-wide agreement is in effect to support new contamination control programs. This will include acknowledging all things related to the new initiative, including the necessary costs, training, equipment, materials and manual labor.

2. Personnel Training

Next, airports will want to set up in-depth contamination training for all ground support personnel to start the new program on the same footing. Training can be supplied by the equipment manufacturer, a hydraulic training center or a school of engineering. This will ensure that all ground support personnel have the proper knowledge and skillset to keep hydraulic ground support equipment in pristine working order.

3. Setting Standards For Fluid Level Contamination

Next, airports can begin to put fluid-level contamination standards into place for all ground support personnel to follow. Acceptable levels of contamination should come from the airframe tooling manufacturer's recommendation. But we'll touch more on this a bit later.

4. GSE Baseline Testing

Once ground support personnel is trained and a fluid level contamination standard is in place, airports can transition to baseline testing of all hydraulic ground support equipment present. Personnel can send a fluid sample to an analysis laboratory or use a contamination monitor to find baselines.

5. Acquiring Equipment & Materials

At this point, airports can acquire any and all equipment and materials needed to implement a contamination control program. This can include but is not limited to the following:

6. Scheduling Maintenance & Testing

Finally, airports will be ready to schedule regular GSE maintenance and hydraulic ground support equipment testing. Personnel should set up specific intervals for testing and filter replacement and periodic evaluations of the program itself.

Conducting Proper Prevention & Monitoring

As previously mentioned, airports must have regular preventive maintenance scheduled for all aerospace GSE. Remember, the best offense is a good defense. By taking the proper precautions to prevent contaminants from entering hydraulic ground support equipment systems, airports will see the benefits of longer-lasting equipment that requires less unscheduled maintenance. This equates to a lower life cycle cost on all fronts.

Inspect Fluids & Contamination Levels

When inspecting fluids, begin by ensuring the fluid filler cap is in good working condition. This cap should only ever be removed when servicing the reservoir. A hydraulic ground support equipment fluid reservoir should typically be a sealed type with an air filter and desiccant to control the fluid's overall condition. If air filters and desiccants are not currently in place on hydraulic ground support equipment, airports can add them to existing reservoirs.

It's recommended that personnel regularly monitor fluid to ensure it meets the required specifications of the airframe, fluid or component manufacturer. Monitoring consists of taking a fluid sample and sending it to an analysis lab or using a portable contamination monitor. This monitoring process allows for consistent adjustments of contamination control and GSE maintenance programs to keep contamination at an acceptable level.

Using portable monitors to get immediate results of the ISO or NAS cleanliness level allows personnel to inspect hydraulic ground support equipment with top-of-the-line precision. The monitors allow for precision gauging of the cleanliness level and the moisture level within the fluid system. Personnel is then recommended to use a portable filtration and moisture removal unit to bring these down to more acceptable levels that conform with manufacturer recommendations.

Another method for maintaining acceptable levels is to off-line clean hydraulic fluid systems. Simply loop fluid through an onboard or kidney loop system until the levels have reached an acceptable point.

Replace Filtration Systems

Personnel must change GSE filters regularly based on manual recommendations to maintain the required contamination level of the systems. This should be done, at a minimum, on an annual basis. Depending on usage, it may need to be done more frequently. When monitoring the air filter and desiccant, ensure that they're not saturated. This could limit air from exchanging with the reservoir or even allow contaminates to enter the reservoir.

To take advantage of new, more efficient filter designs, consider upgrading the filtration systems of hydraulic ground support equipment. Personnel should carefully choose filters that can handle the required system flow and pressure.

Hydraulic System Maintenance & Troubleshooting Checklist

To make life easy for airports and personnel, it's always a good idea to put a hydraulic system maintenance and troubleshooting checklist in place for quick reference. The following is a generic and high-level checklist for hydraulic GSE. You should always consult your equipment manufacturer manual for model-specific instructions.

Quick Reference Troubleshooting Checklist

If a piece of hydraulic ground support equipment does become contaminated, personnel should take great care to ensure that all affected components are replaced or thoroughly cleaned and dried. The contaminated fluid should then be appropriately disposed of, and a fluid analysis should be done to make sure that all fluid traces have been removed from the system.

Find Hydraulic GSE, Test Equipment & More at Tronair

Hydraulic ground support equipment is an essential component of any operational airport. The scope and scale of how hydraulic GSE is used can affect nearly every aspect of maintenance for aircraft. Tronair offers a diverse and unparalleled selection of high-quality aerospace GSE products. Head on over to our shop for hydraulic ground support equipment, test kits, fluid contamination monitors and more to assist in your operations. With countless years of experience, our customer service department and sales team are here to help with any questions about our range of products. If you have any questions about hydraulic ground support equipment, training, maintenance and troubleshooting or anything else, feel free to contact us at any time. Our expert team is always ready to assist you.

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