SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. --- Elvis Gonzalez can’t help but show off to his sons when he spots a KC-46A in the sky.
“I point it out to them and tell them, ‘Your dad is helping to keep that going,’” said the planning manager for Advanced Ground Systems Engineering.
The KC-46A Pegasus operates globally for the U.S. Air Force. Ground maintenance support keeps the aircraft mission capable so it can fly whenever and wherever the service needs.
California-based Advanced Ground Systems Engineering spent the last half century developing and maintaining its reputation in the aviation world as an industry leader in ground support equipment and tooling for jet engines and aircraft.
Perhaps most important to president and CEO Diane Henderson, this small business can hang its hat on fueling the U.S. Air Force’s global mission through safely handling the jet engines powering Boeing’s KC-46 program.
“We’re just grateful that we can be even a small part of a program that helps our military protect and defend our country,” Henderson said. “That makes us more proud than anything.”
Henderson’s company, one of more than 650 KC-46A Pegasus suppliers in communities across the nation, delivers critical ground support equipment to support the world’s most advanced aerial refueler.
Founded in 1973, AGSE supplies a shipping stand for the KC-46A’s Pratt & Whitney PW4062 engine. The stand is a combination of a cradle and a dolly. The cradle removes the PW4062 from the aircraft when engine maintenance is required and pins securely to the dolly for transport.
“Without our equipment, engines don’t come off, engines don’t move and engines don’t get re-installed,” vice president of operations Sam Neer explained.
Manuel Macias is a research & development project engineer for AGSE who ensures that each engine stand is built to the rigorous standards required for military aviation. The Marine Corps veteran says he is proud to continue supporting the U.S. armed forces by constructing these stands.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to still be involved with helping the military and all of the global commitments the United States has,” Macias said. “It means more than working a regular job. It’s hard to explain and put into words, but there’s a deep sense of pride.”
Pride in his craft is what led operations manager Gustavo Aranda’s father, Jose Miranda, to work for AGSE for 44 years before retiring in 2021. Aranda, who remembers coming to work with his dad on Saturdays as a young boy, says the two still talk shop at family get-togethers.
“He definitely feels proud,” Aranda said. “Because every single time I go by and spend some time with him, he brings it up. He asks, ‘What unit did you work on?’ And then he’ll take out photos from when they made the prototype unit. It’s interesting to see all of those photos and how the engine stand actually came to be.”
“People are your business, period,” Henderson said. “It’s important for us to find the right people, train them, support them, listen to them, believe in them and let them show what they can do.
“The good news is, when you feel like you have a dedicated team, it makes your job a lot easier.”