As the aviation sector struggles to return to normality and cope with swiftly recovering passenger numbers, many GSE suppliers are gearing up to meet increased demand for their products. Telford, UK-based Aviramp designs and manufactures a range of mobile boarding ramps that provide a step-free experience for all passengers and an easier boarding and disembarking process for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM)
Terri Smart-Jewkes, Aviramp’s global sales and marketing director, says that Aviramp used the downturn in the industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as breathing space to prepare the business for better times.
She recalls: “During the pandemic, Aviramp continued to support customers, by listening to specific ground handling challenges, undertaking some due diligence regarding those challenges, and ultimately investing this forced manufacturing downtime into something useful and worthwhile longer term: innovation and product development.
“Aviramp is a natural innovator. It is in the company’s DNA,” Smart-Jewkes says, adding: “It lies at the heart of what we do. So, our positive response to lockdown and the various restrictions on the industry was to get stuck in to launching our solar-powered range of mobile passenger boarding ramps and bridges.
“This directly answered concerns within the industry relating to sustainability and aviation’s environmental mandate. Covid-19 hampered development, and indeed product launch, but this did not deter the Aviramp team.
“We know how much the ground handling sector has embraced our passenger boarding product suite, and its raft of benefits. The industry loves the versatility of this equipment, so to offer a solar version with all the extra advantages seemed to us a ‘no-brainer’, even though we believe it was interpreted as a brave and groundbreaking move.”
All five of Aviramp’s ramp models – International, Continental, Domestic, Regional and Lite – are now available in solar-powered variants. Plus, Aviramp also offers a retrofit service to convert customer’s existing diesel-powered ramps into energy-efficient solar versions.
The solar-powered units have proved popular – and not just in hot-weather nations. “They are popular in so many markets, including in colder climates such as Norway,” Smart-Jewkes informs.
A real first
Aviramp has also brought other new developments to market. “We listened intently and innovated still further, by introducing a real first: our Stretcher Compatible Passenger Boarding product,” Smart-Jewkes says. This meets the needs of ground handlers who have been concerned for many years about how to safely, quickly and effectively move stretchered passengers onto and off aircraft, she believes.
Aviramp’s modifications to its existing mobile boarding ramps delivered on this, Smart-Jewkes asserts, and the product is now seen as a vital “enabler” for “streamlining boarding and deplaning, whilst reducing delays and managing passenger volumes”.
Finally, Aviaramp has also launched a new Multi-Lifter product, which is described as a simple yet ingenious compact product that can transfer heavy items into and out of an aircraft hold. It is ideal for moving heavy wheelchairs and the like.
It represents an improvement on Aviramp’s pre-existing Mobiloader product, not least in the extra versatility that the Multi-Lifter offers.
Both the Stretcher Compatible Passenger Boarding equipment and Multi-Lifter were launched earlier this year, following successful trials.
“We also came up with new modifications for various optional extras for our flagship Aviramp passenger boarding product as well,” Smart-Jewkes informs. “So, our downtime was wisely spent, with Aviramp responding with new, cost-effective solutions to old problems.”
“Moreover, our sister company, Alloy Ramps, a specialist in the manufacture of ramps designed for access and loading, remained very busy during this economically difficult time, servicing the medical supplies and home delivery sectors.
“Again, we innovated here with streamlined folding van and truck ramps, along with swivel versions, for safer, faster and easier loading. This business also thrived on producing bespoke ramp systems for specific industry access requirements in the maritime and rail sectors, amongst others.”
Weathering the storm
According to Smart-Jewkes, the fact that Aviramp enjoys strong, open relationships with both customers and influencers within the industry has been key to providing “the insight and advocacy” that enabled the company to “weather the storm” of the pandemic and its impact on the aviation industry.
“Customers were grateful for our speedy responses to servicing equipment and delivering new parts when needed, and although shipping legislation and visa restrictions during this period proved aggravating, we tried to send installation teams and engineers out globally, where we could, to help with customer demand.”
Being “present globally and with units in operation pretty much everywhere except India”, there is plenty of ground to cover.
Last year also brought a most sought-after recognition: the Queen’s Award for exponential growth in export trade. “This was a great honour, and a morale boost for the company, and indeed the industry we represent,” Smart-Jewkes remarks.
“Now, the industry is in recovery, and the travel industry is beginning to rebuild. More airports are opening closed terminals and building passenger volumes once again. The world is finally on the move.
“So too at Aviramp: we are also starting to rebuild in terms of enquiries and sales, from both new and existing customers. Being an independently owned manufacturer, we know there is already a great deal of respect and loyalty towards us.”
The best possible passenger experience
As a business, Aviramp never forgets its mission and commitment to continue to deliver simply constructed, low-maintenance products, that meet all safety and operational key performance indicators (KPIs), alongside ensuring the best possible passenger experience – particularly for those with reduced mobility, Smart-Jewkes declares.
Aviramp is always mindful of the need for a streamlined and quick aircraft turnaround process, and this underpins its GSE product offering. It has been demonstrated in independent trials at London Gatwick Airport that aircraft turnaround efficiency was “faster by 30%” as a result of using Aviramp equipment, she points out.
“Furthermore, we also offer outstanding cost-effectiveness in comparison with similar GSE offered by our counterparts, and now post-pandemic, cost will feature heavily: more so than ever before. So again, Aviramp stand outs with its product proposition,” she says.
“We have always worked closely with customers’ operational teams in order to support a fluid ground handling process that is completely customised for them. We can offer as little or as much as the customer determines. Now [with the solar-powered Aviramp variants], we also offer a carbon-free alternative, even more compelling for the industry.
“The Aviramp business and team remain very positive, highly focused, forward thinking and motivated, for whatever the future may bring, with all its endless possibilities to embrace change in this post-pandemic ‘new world’ of aviation ground handling,” Smart-Jewkes concludes.