Data-based Insights Driving Innovation in Airline Ground Support Equipment Management

The Challenge

Blackhawk was chosen by Australia’s largest airline to deliver a solution that created more efficiency and savings in its ground handling operations covering 5,000 ground support assets from aircraft tow tractors to cargo loaders.

The Solution

Blackhawk delivered a customised platform for the airline but needed an IoT partner to provide the devices and connectivity to enable the data transmission to the platform. They partnered with Thinxtra for the unpowered assets the airline wanted to track, whilst Blackhawk’s existing tracker was used for the powered assets.

The Benefits

Partnering with Thinxtra gives Blackhawk access to a solution better suited to the unpowered assets the airline wants to track via Thinxtra’s 0G Network and integrated GPS tracker.

Blackhawk is a New Zealand hi-tech company that specialises in leading edge asset management solutions, helping businesses improve their workflow, check asset utilisation and security as well as monitoring and mentoring driver behaviour.

They work with large enterprises and customers in ANZ across a range of industries and have partnered with Thinxtra to access Thinxtra’s low-cost and low-power IoT solutions that are effective in a range of use cases such as this one for Australia’s largest airline.

The airline needed to find more efficiency and savings within its ground handling operations and formed a project steering committee of key stakeholders and domain experts from a range of departments to help find the best solution. Operations, finance, and technology experts came together to determine what was available, evaluate solutions and determine the best option for the airline’s future.

“[The Airline] has a wide range of assets to operate and maintain, spanning GSE, freight, engineering and terminals. Since their assets all operate within or close to the airports, Thinxtra offered the perfect network solution for low-cost, low-power connectivity around these sites and was a natural choice for us to partner with to help meet [the airline’s] existing and future requirements,”

Tina Tian,
Chief Operating Officer at

Identifying the problem

The airline had 5,000 ground support assets to track and monitor across 40 types, including:

  • Aircraft tow tractors
  • Baggage tugs
  • Cargo loaders
  • Ground power units
  • Belt loaders

The steering committee’s primary objectives were to significantly reduce costs and improve performance of ground handling and related services within the airline. Much of the ground support equipment (GSE) was aged (older than 20 years). Without any real-time data over GSE use, it was difficult to implement any fundamental changes across GSE maintenance, utilisation and operations.

Oftentimes, critical GSE were either down for maintenance or simply lost, or ground staff could not locate an appropriate asset when they needed it. This also resulted in the assumption that more GSE needed to be purchased, hence greater capital expenditure.

Without usage data, maintenance could only be carried out on calendar-based schedules. The most in-demand equipment, which was typically over-utilised, were under-serviced and more prone to breakdowns, and lesser used equipment was being over-serviced, resulting in unnecessary cost. It also resulted in slower turnarounds, delays and put additional stress on ground staff and ramp managers, particularly at peak times.

Equipment, aeroplane and vehicles in an airport that uses aviation asset tracking solutions

Setting clear goals

At Thinxtra we encourage businesses to be clear about what they are trying to achieve with the data they are collecting. This ensures the correct data and the ideal amount of data is collected.

The airline’s steering committee decided to look at connecting all GSE as a way of locating assets and collecting data. It issued an RFP to invite tenders for solutions, and set key outcomes required for a Proof-of-Concept (POC), including demonstration of telemetry data retrieval from all asset types, real-world reporting data to confirm system accuracy and multiple site deployments to test network coverage.

The airline set the following goals for the solution it was seeking:

  • Improve aircraft turnaround time.
  • Reduce maintenance costs by moving to hours-based programs instead of calendar.
  • Rationalise the ground support equipment (GSE) fleet.
  • Increase situational awareness of GSE (locate GSE quickly).
  • Reduce APU fuel consumption by ensuring GPU’s are available.

The solution

Blackhawk was chosen for the full fleet deployment, which was carried out over 10 months, encompassed 5,000 IoT device installations across all major and regional airport locations throughout Australia.

Thinxtra’s 0G Network is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) and offered several advantages for many of the unpowered asset classes. As almost all the GSE operated within well-defined airport locations and typically travelled less than 5 kilometres from airports for maintenance or to near-by logistical operators, 0G was a viable network option for many assets such as rolling stock. 

Thinxtra also offers a fully managed LPWAN network which means that customers do not have to self-manage any gateways or infrastructure. As the majority of GSE are non-powered, a battery-powered GPS tracker using the Thinxtra 0G Network was selected. It was chosen for its low running cost, long battery life and all-weather capabilities.

For powered equipment such as trucks, buses, GPUs and pushback tractors, the Blackhawk G5-E02 device was selected with GPS, 4G communications, and a wide range of accessories. A white-label mobile app enabled ground support staff to locate equipment quickly when required and undertake digital mobile inspections of assets and report asset breakdowns.

The outcome

The initial POC and trial was held over 6-months (starting in 2017). Upon successful completion of the POC, the solution was rolled out to major and regional airports across Australia.

The airline has seen several positive results including lower maintenance costs, fewer assets required and improved labour costs and efficiency with more than 1,000 ground handlers and staff.


Up to 10% lower maintenance costs on GSE equipment


Up to 10% reduction in assets of certain types


1,000+ ground handlers and airline staff utilizing the mobile app

We wanted to deliver value to the end customer through data insights. [The Airline] is a key example where numerous benefits have been found and unlocked using simple location data collected from GSE equipment,” commented Thinxtra Chief Operating Officer, Sam Sharief.


“Blackhawk working in partnership with Thinxtra has managed to unlock the true value of the data, using the right technology mix and project managing the deployment of the hardware and software to BAU to meet and exceed customer expectations,”

Sam Sharief,
Chief Operating Officer at Thinxtra

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