Airside talks to two manufacturers of innovative GSE systems about their products and how they are making airport ramps safer
Lippstadt, Germany-based ASO Safety Solutions produces pressure-sensitive sensors as well as wireless signal transmission systems, safety relays and proximity sensors such as light curtains. It has developed a unique anti-collision system as a retrofit solution for all types of GSE. Its solution ensures a damage-free approach of the vehicle to the aircraft, says the company’s head of sales Europe, Dirk Danzebrink.
Consisting of a proximity sensor and tactile sensor as well as different types of control units, it is a modular component system made in Germany.
The LISENS proximity sensor detects the aircraft fuselage and shows the operator of the GSE the exact distance to that aircraft. It also gives an alarm if necessary, so that the operator can react accordingly.
If a collision cannot be avoided, the actively switching SENTIR bumper – mounted on the front of the vehicle – ensures that neither the aircraft nor the vehicle are damaged, and also announces the collision via peripheral components such as lights and beepers.
ASO offers the world’s largest portfolio of active switching and highly resistant safety edges, Danzebrink says. SENTIR edges can be installed between crushing and shearing points.
Acting as an interface for all ASO components is its ELMON control unit that enables quick and easy installation of the company’s products.
Specially developed for the GSE market, ASO’s safety foot is a pressure-sensitive sensor that is placed below the aircraft door in order to detect and report the lowering of the aircraft.
The company’s in-house research and development department enables it to meet customer-specific requirements and to produce customised solutions, Danzebrink observes, also pointing out that ASO develops all products in accordance with applicable international standards. With regard to the GSE market, this means that it has designed its collision avoidance system according to the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airport Handling Manual (AHM) recommendations.
In fact, he says, “At our headquarters in Germany, our products go through a strict release process, which is characterised by normative and – even more importantly – application-relevant tests.
“With respect to our GSE products, that means they are tested on a variety of vehicles such as belt loaders, cargo loaders or catering trucks and under different environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, wind forces, etc). This is how we ensure that our sensors can be used for any type of vehicle and anywhere in the world.”
Wide-ranging customer base
ASO’s customer base includes all those in the aviation industry who are interested in the safe handling of aircraft, including service and maintenance companies, GSE manufacturers, airports and airlines.
Supporting customers at this difficult time has been an important part of many GSE system suppliers’ operations over most of 2020, but less so for ASO.
“Fortunately, our [client] companies currently aren’t affected by Covid-19 infections and we see only a little impact on our operations. Our production, development and administration departments remain active, although as an internationally operating company we certainly face the challenges posed by travelling restrictions, delays in the supply chain and quarantine measures.
“ASO will continue to visit the well-known industry events or participate as an exhibitor once they begin to take place again. We will also participate in important conferences to continuously monitor market requirements and take current standards into account.
“The GSE market remains an interesting industry for ASO and hopefully it will recover quickly from the Covid-19 impact,” Danzebrink remarks.
Besides its headquarters in Germany, ASO also has subsidiaries in New Jersey in the US and Nanjing in China, supported by a worldwide network of distributors.
Fogmaker: specialised fire suppression
Växjö, Sweden-based Fogmaker International supplies highly specialised fire suppression systems for engine compartments. The system uses water mist created under high pressure to both cool and douse any fire that breaks out in the engine compartment of a vehicle fitted with Fogmaker; the foam produced also prevents any fire restarting.
Fogmaker has been manufacturing the system since 1995, originally developing the technology for rally cars. In 2004, the company branched out when it began supplying to the bus market, its sales growing strongly as a result. Today, it supplies Fogmaker into numerous industry sectors, including motor sport, buses, mining and tunnelling, material handling, forestry, construction, trucks, agriculture, marine and, of course, into airport GSE. Today, more than 200,000 vehicles, operating in more than 50 countries, are believed to be equipped with Fogmaker.
Its manufacturing and research and development (R&D) facility in Växjö, in the south of Sweden, has nearly 100 employees manufacturing and improving the high-pressure water mist fire-protection system.
Engine fires are hard to combat with traditional fire suppression systems, mainly because they are hard to detect when they first start and then – once going – burn extremely intensely. Fogmaker is designed to tackle the three components that are required to start and maintain any fire: an ignition source and/or heat, oxygen and fuel.
Designed to attack all three sides of this ‘fire triangle’, Fogmaker is made up of three components: the detection system, an activation and suppression delivery system, and a system status display. The detection system does not rely on electrical sensors but on a hydro-pneumatic tube that ruptures and depressurises once the surrounding environment reaches a predetermined high temperature.
A loss of pressure in the tube triggers the opening of a release valve and a collection of patented-technology nozzles then deliver a high-pressure foam mixture in the form of atomised droplets. This foam contains both water and aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) agents. Each droplet rapidly absorbs heat as it expands into a vapour and, collectively, they can reduce the ambient heat within an engine compartment by somewhere between 700 and 1,300 degrees in just 10 seconds. The water, expanding into steam, also displaces the oxygen that is required for any fire to keep burning.
An automated engine shutdown option is also available with the system.
Fogmaker can be installed in under a day, with the process being carried out by one of the company’s own travelling teams of engineers or by one of its many certified installers that are to be found around the world. Such partners are trained within the Fogmaker Training Academy programme and certified on passing the course.
While complex in its operation, the system is a simple one in that no power supply is required. There is little ongoing life cycle cost, and maintenance requirements are small.
Lars Alrutz, sales and marketing manager at Fogmaker, notes: “Our system has a well-known efficiency for all vehicles that have a risk of fire.
“The water mist cools down the fire and the steam that is generated pushes out the oxygen so that the fire is choked. Plus, the small amount of foam that is added to the agent will create a blanket over the fuel to prevent fumes from reigniting. Our patented nozzle technology gives a long activation time that is crucial, both to have a desirable cooling effect and to prolong the fire incident so that an airport fire safety crew has time to reach the vehicle and assist.
“When there are valuable assets that need protection, our system is the solution,” Alrutz declares. “To ensure as little down-time as possible for the vehicle, the water mist can easily be rinsed off after a fire incident and after the damaged components have been replaced, the vehicle can be put into operation again.”
A number of aircraft tow tractors have been equipped with Fogmaker. Last year, the company installed approximately 150 systems on tow tractors, but Fogmaker recommends that all GSE that either comes into contact or approaches an aircraft should have a fire suppression system to minimise risk to life and equipment.
Considering it only entered the GSE market in 2018, the firm has made good progress in this segment. Fogmaker currently supplies to GSE manufacturers like Sweden’s Kalmar Motor, while it has also undertaken numerous retrofits in the German market.
Fogmaker is equally applicable to both petrol and diesel engines, and is also suitable for hybrid vehicles. In fact, the company has equipped a lot of hybrids with fire suppression systems and is now working on new solutions for fully electric vehicles.