Aero Specialties: SiPsHitch™

Case Study

Expertise Applied

  • Industrial Controls
  • Rapid Cycles of Build-Test-Learn
  • Enclosure design, Ruggedization
  • PLC Development
  • CAN Bus Programming
  • Phased Development
  • Rapid Development and Prototyping
  • Design for Manufacture

About this Project

AERO Specialties builds and supplies aircraft and airport ground-support equipment (GSE) to corporate, military, airline and general aviation customers worldwide. Always looking for ways to innovate and improve the industry with their products, the company identified an opportunity to solve a common, costly problem that occurs during towing of aircraft. Special tractors, which are used to tow all types and sizes of aircraft, exert a great amount of force and can over-stress nose and landing gear if not carefully operated — resulting in the aircraft being taken out of service for expensive repairs. Keeping stress loads within acceptable ranges relies on the skill and experience of the tractor operator.

Aero Specialties recognized they could help to remove human error by developing a system that displayed the load exertion in real time and automatically reduced or cut the tractor throttle when loads approached the critical level. 

Excited about their idea and with two industry trade shows fast approaching, Aero Specialties knew they needed to begin work immediately if they wanted to have a prototype ready to exhibit and to hit their target commercial launch date in six months. Unfortunately, their internal engineering teams were occupied with other projects so the company turned to SGW Designworks for product development. 

With two key milestones — the trade shows (requiring two prototypes for sales demonstrations) and the target commercial launch date — and tight time frames for both, SGW Designworks put the project on an accelerated schedule, running multiple development cycles in parallel:

  • User interface development and programming
  • Component research to determine what could be purchased and what needed to be developed
  • Rugged yet beautiful enclosure design for the touch screen and other system elements
  • Data logging, management, and reporting scheme – including ignition interrupts based on real-time load cell data
Prototype installation on tow tractor, for trade show demonstration

It was immediately clear from the onset that in order to have physical prototypes ready for the trade shows, final design optimization for production as well as some specific functionality would need to be incorporated into the design after the trade shows. This decision allowed SGW Designworks to focus on producing a visually representative, seemingly full-function system for use at the trade show meeting the following requirements:

  1. Provide the Aero Specialties sales team a demonstration tool to generate pre-sales of the system.
  2. Demonstrate the system functionality using one tractor installation and one pedestal-mounted system.
  3. Allow users to test and provide feedback on the user interface of the system, including menu structure and screen navigation.
  4. Allow users to provide feedback on the enclosure design.


Aero Specialties received the prototype units in time for the trade shows, where they were met with positive reviews. SGW Design-works continued with design finalization, while incorporating user feedback from the trade shows. Late-stage development focused on continued iteration and refinement of the user interface and menus, ruggedization of the enclosures, design consideration for future system expansion and generation of the final design package for production. Six months after the project started, production of the patented SiPsHitch™ product began. Aero Specialties is currently fulfilling orders, and getting positive feedback from customers about the product. Aero Specialties are engaging SGW Designworks on new development projects focused on other product lines within the Ground Support Equipment market.


“The team at SGW have individual skill-sets that work together to create a ‘can do’ operation at the same time being mindful of budgets and commercial cost constraints.”

Rod Gray, Vice President, GPU Division, AERO Specialties

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