An inside look at the technology and businesses that operate behind the scenes at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Entrepreneurs provide all kinds of equipment including tow bars, belt loaders, and ground surveillance.
00:07 Kasey Wehrum: This is Kasey Wehrum, staff writer here at Inc Magazine. And I worked on this months' article taking a behind the scenes look at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport. Our photographer Kevin Cooley provided us with some great video footage of the airport, which is one of the busiest airports in the nation, so we decided to get a closer look at some of the businesses and news on the ground here, helping our lines to run smoother, safer and more efficient. For example, you'll notice that the gentleman backing towards us is wearing a high-visibility safety vest. Those vests are custom-made for Delta by a company called ML Kishigo, which is based in Santa Ana, California. Between the noise of the jets and the protective ear-coverings the ground crew wears, it's not easy to hear danger approaching so those vests are vital.
00:48 Wehrum: While you won't be able to physically see the ground surveillance system in use here, if you're traveling, you'll be glad to know it's in service. Made by Sensis, a business based in East Syracuse, New York, the surveillance system helps air traffic controllers monitor plane and vehicle traffic on the ground to help ensure that there are no accidental collisions. Considering that there are close to half a million in take-offs and landing at Detroit's Metro Airport each year, that's a good thing. Any of those small trucks you see zooming around, the baggage carts, belt-loaders and tow-tractors, which are collectively known as Ground Support Equipment, are manufactured by a company called TUG Technologies based in Kennesaw, Georgia. Founded in 1972, and now doing about $100 million in sales, TUG supplies equipment to more than 100 airports around the world. You'll see one of TUGs belt-loaders cruise by, those help load and unload the baggage of the roughly 36,000,000 passengers passing through the Detroit Airport each year.
01:40 Wehrum: Finally, if you look closely on the ground to the right, you'll see a long, yellow tow bar, which while it might not look like much, it's actually a great tool airlines use to cut fuel consumption, lower costs and combat pollution. Jet fuel is very expensive, so whenever possible, airlines will shut their planes down and tow them into, and at a position, using tractors equipped with these tow bars. Hall Industries, a second-generation, family-run business has been making tow bars and other ground support equipment out of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania since 1966.
02:12 Wehrum: So the next time your plane is delayed and you're stuck on the runway waiting to take off, take a peek outside your window and you can pass some time appreciating the small businesses that are at work all around you. This has been Kasey Wehrum for Inc Magazine.
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.