Bayeux-headquartered AEROPAX was one of a number of French companies exhibiting on the French Pavilion at inter airport. It offers something that, the company says, no-one else does: a ground-level telescopically opening passenger boarding tunnel
The genesis of the AEROPAX tunnel lies in a request made by Air France to the company’s owner and managing director, Jean-Jacques Benoit, for a ground-level passenger boarding bridge, one that would offer comfort (protection from the elements) and safety (by preventing passengers straying onto an airport’s ramp and avoiding any passenger interaction with airport infrastructure or handlers’ equipment on the apron).
Reacting to the request, AEROPAX tested its first prototype tunnel seven years ago and, just two years ago, the tunnel was sold to its first customers: Caen Airport in Normandy and Montepellier Airport in the south of France. Over five years of prototype testing was required to perfect the simple but very effective system, explains Jean-Jacques Benoit’s son and head of sales, Thomas.
One end of the aluminium and fire-proof canvas AEROPAX tunnel is fixed to the airport terminal door, before the tunnel is then telescopically extended by means of a simple, handheld controller out to a maximum length of 50m (at Caen, the tunnel is 30m long, at Montpellier it is 35m long). Battery power provides the energy to extend the 2.2m high, 2.6m wide tunnel (wide enough to accommodate two passengers walking abreast with their carry-on luggage).
The tunnel can incorporate bends of up to 30 degrees, and includes its own interior lighting system, which is switched on and off from the controller. Other features, such as air conditioning for example, could also be built in according to customer requirements, says Benoit junior.
While they have so far only sold into French gateways, the Benoits are keen to spread the word beyond their home market; hence their attendance at this year’s inter airport show. It could be useful anywhere around the world, they believe, and is easy to ship.
“It’s a unique system, it doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Thomas Benoit. The patented system is very simple, but it is very clever, he added. It’s used 10 times a day at Montpellier, is simple to operate and to maintain, and can be easily folded away for storage when not in use. He’s confident of plenty of further interest.