New lifts and loaders continue to be brought to market; the changes in equipment have not been revolutionary of late, but customers are always looking for more from their suppliers
TREPEL Airport Equipment, the German supplier of loaders and pushback tractors, is amongst the manufacturers modifying its extensive product range to meet the changing demands of airside cargo handlers. Describing itself as “the leading manufacturer in the growing high cargo loader market”, the company’s high loaders can handle payloads of 3, 5, 7, 14, 20, 30 and 35 tons, and new models continue to be brought to market to satisfy evolving customer requirements.
Sales director Carsten Schimkat witnessed a number of market trends over the course of 2014, and can make a few predictions for 2015 as well. He points, for example, to the growing demand for electrically powered lower deck loaders. The requests for such green equipment are particularly vociferous in Europe, Schimkat explains.
Calls for the option that TREPEL offers of supplying loaders with an aircraft approach collision warning system are also becoming more numerous. The increasing use of composite aircraft – A350s and B787 ‘Dreamliners’ – that are easily damaged by loaders coming into contact with a cargo door or fuselage but which then don’t always show signs of damage – may be partly responsible for this, he considers.
Demand for loaders in the round has been particularly strong from the Asia Pacific region, Schimkat observes, perhaps thanks to the boom in that area’s cargo industry over recent months. After what he says was a “good year” for both loaders and tractor sales in 2014, Schimkat is expecting more of the same this year. He is hopeful that a new variant of the TREPEL CHAMP 35 loader already in production, and expected to be released to the market in the first few months of 2015, will contribute to further success.
ELSEWHERE IN GERMANY…
The acquisition of Oppenau-based GSE lift manufacturer DOLL by German investment company Capital Management Partners (CMP) on 2 September last year brought something of a turbulent time, but the ramifications have been positive, insists DOLL key account manager, GSE Christoph Portele. He describes the acquisition as “a very good result”, adding: “CMP has a clear idea how to restructure DOLL Fahrzeugbau GmbH and is supporting all activities to be successful in the future.”
Being part of CMP gives DOLL a “solid financial structure” that enables the manufacturer to invest in the future in terms of both production and new vehicles, he says.
Last year was also eventful for other reasons. In terms of its product range, DOLL worked on the implementation of a new EURO 6-compliant truck chassis as well as the development of new safety features to secure the operator on the front platform and on the accurate, safe positioning of the platform relative to an aircraft door in order to avoid aircraft damages. The latter is a particular focus right now because of the special need to avoid damage to the new composite aircraft types, which don’t always show damage and may potentially continue operations when damaged by GSE and an incautious operator.
DOLL’s ecat, an electrically powered high loader that we looked at in some depth in a previous issue of Airside International (Spring 2014), has apparently created a lot of interest, but the company decided not to push for further sales until a one-year field test, including the difficult winter period, is finished and DOLL can analyse genuine field test feedback. However, the feedback received subsequent to initial field tests in Zurich is said to be “very positive”, and the manufacturer is now collecting data from winter testing in Sweden.
There are definite advantages to electrically driven units, Portele considers. The test data is expected to confirm the benefits of this technology, while another potential option under consideration is a unit running on compressed natural gas, or CNG.
At the third International Airport Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (IAEMA) International Airport Expo in Las Vegas, last October, DOLL exhibited a catering truck, which – the company says – attracted numerous visitors. The high loader of the X-Cat M series for widebody aircraft was designed and built by DOLL in collaboration with Palfinger North America Group (PNAG). It incorporates “a sophisticated design, a clever choice of components, excellent workmanship as well as easy handling”, DOLL informs, and represents a strong move for the German GSE supplier into the North American market. The partnership with PNAG has also been well received on that continent. One reason for this is perhaps that PNAG has a widespread customer service and after-sales network on the continent.
VERSATILITY AND SPECIALISATION
Aircraft loaders are used to load and unload all sorts of cargoes. One very specialist role is that of feeding aircraft with the large volumes of food and drink required for flights. Long-haul flights need very large numbers of meals for each trip while even short-haul services are supplied with snacks and beverages.
High loader catering vehicles are offered by a number of suppliers, some of whose customers are not the big names we all recognise, such as Gate Gourmet. For example, earlier this year, On Air Dining announced it had ordered a 7.5-tonne, temperature-controlled IVECO half-cab high loader that it expects to be delivered by the end of February (as Airside goes to press). On Air Dining also has an option on another two such vehicles on lease from the beginning of the summer.
“We are increasingly serving larger business jets and are building up our facilities and chef resources in readiness to offer a planned 24/7 service later in the spring,” remarks CEO Daniel Hulme. “This high loader will be extremely valuable in this regard. The new equipment will enable the On Air Dining team to deliver food to these jets efficiently, whilst reducing the amount of external handling.”
REACHING THE HEIGHTS
Istanbul-based Denge Airport Equipment offers a wide range of GSE, including medical lifts and cargo transfer (storage and loading) systems, as well as passenger stairs, pallet and cargo container dollies, baggage carts, conveyor belts, towbars, water service units and lavatory service units, de-icers, catering trucks, and passenger baggage handling systems.
It recently developed the Dengelift vehicle for passengers with restricted mobility. Officially launched at the big inter airport show in Munich in October 2013, it won the event’s interRAMP award category and has, says managing director Murat Denge, proved its worth many times since then. More than 12 units were manufactured in its first year of availability, and the vehicle has been sold to Turkish Airlines as well as Turkish handlers Çelebi and HAVAS (although a total of 10 of those units are in service abroad).
It offers great flexibility of front service height – between 1.3m and 5.8m – meaning that it can used with almost all aircraft types. Its speed is limited by design, lowering the potential for accidental collisions with aircraft that it is coming into contact with, while because so many of its major drive components are well-known European brands, customers are not bound to Denge for spare parts. Maintenance is made easy by the ready accessibility of all parts, Murat Denge also adds.
The GSE supplier has many other self-propelled chassis-based GSE models, and demand for these vehicles is increasing steadily, Murat Denge points out. Towed truck-mounted GSE models are also proving popular, though not to such as a growing extent, he explains. All of this has encouraged the company to invest heavily in the expansion of its manufacturing capacity.
The first phase of that development has seen Denge add a further 2,500 square metres of plant space in Istanbul, now having a total of 8,000 square metres of indoor manufacturing capacity in what is Turkey’s most populous city. Meanwhile, the Denge facility in Sakarya, to the east of Istanbul, has been expanded and renovated to cover 4,600 square metres of indoor area.
Murat Denge has been happy with the recent growth in the aviation industry that has boosted demand for his company’s GSE, especially the marked growth in Turkey’s own aviation market. With expectations further spurred by the possibilities offered by the new Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA, the city’s third) expected to open for business in a few short years’ time, a second phase of Denge investments is to be announced either later this year or in early 2016, he notes.
While new customers for its products have also been added to the company’s growing client list, the past year or so has by no means been without its challenges, For example, the conflicts and serious problems in countries such as Ukraine, Libya and Iraq have had a direct effect on inquiries, Murat Denge confesses. However, he insists, the firm’s diversified customer portfolio has proved a big advantage, allowing Denge to more than ride the impact of effects on the market in these locations. There are now 66 different countries in which Denge equipment is in operation.
Further growth is anticipated, fuelled at least in part by Turkish carriers and handlers investing abroad, where – Murat Denge insists – they still prefer to employ Denge equipment in their foreign stations. Finally, new equipment will once again be revealed at the inter airport expo later this year, where he is hopeful of picking up another award!