Mike Cardy, managing director of UK-based GSE supplier Airside Airport Equipment, tells Airside International about his company’s expanding product line, as well as about its very recent move into new premises at Farnborough Airport
Cardy has been operating Airside Airport Equipment since he bought the company in 2009, at which time he registered himself as the sole shareholder. But it is only since 2014 that the firm has formally traded as a going concern. Only at this point was it a “logical decision” to develop the company as an independent business, he says. Since then, though, Cardy has swiftly ramped up its product offering and its business.
Airside Airport Equipment now offers a core product range of GSE, including but not limited to belt loaders, passenger stairs, docking platforms, toilet and water servicing units, ground power units, ULD beds and towbars. As well as ‘off-the-shelf’ GSE, the company supplies refurbished GSE in packages as required by customers.
Airside Airport Equipment has also negotiated with various companies for the supply of ramp equipment such as customised wheel chocks, wands, ‘pigs’ and the like. It intends to market these products together with its vast range of bypass pins and shear pins for towbars, whether currently produced or no longer manufactured – an offering which is unique to Airside Airport Equipment, Cardy notes (and all come with certificates of conformity).
For a comparatively small GSE supplier such as Airside Airport Equipment, it’s important to focus on niche areas of GSE, Cardy suggests. There are plenty of bigger manufacturers who can provide mass-produced equipment at very competitive prices. Hence also his willingness to diversify into some unusual product lines – for example, the company recently supplied an extra-long 8m towbar not for an aviation company but for a major player in the luxury boating business – Sunseeker. That towbar is now in a new home on the southern English coast at Southampton.
Most of the company’s output is dedicated to the aviation industry, however. Interesting jobs that have either recently been completed or that are currently works in progress include a docking platform for Boeing that will offer engineers good access to Chinook helicopters. An initial unit is to be trialled at the tri-service military aircraft testing station at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, Cardy says, while the first batch may be destined either for Boscombe Down or for RAF Odiham, an RAF base in Hampshire home to the Royal Air Force’s Chinooks. The Royal Canadian Air Force might be interested in the platform too, Cardy suggests.
Airside Airport Equipment is also developing what Cardy calls a ‘combi stair’ for aviation services provider TAG Aviation. The combi stair consists of a regular set of passenger steps fitted with a platform suitable for a wheelchair passenger that slides smoothly up over the noses of the steps as if on a ramp. The platform is worked by an operator through remote control. As of early August, one example of the electro-hydraulic system was nearly ready for delivery. It is suited to serving A320 type aircraft but the combi stair could be adapted for larger – or, more pertinently, taller – aircraft.
Another interesting task currently on the ‘to-do list’ concerns renovating a somewhat dated belt loader that a production company is interested in leasing for a week, along with some baggage carts, for a programme it is producing on Freddie Mercury, the former Queen singer who also worked temporarily as a baggage handler while a student prior to his musical career taking off.
Other jobs that haven’t been run of the mill have included a number of slave pallet dollies produced for a customer with a particular need, a heli-lift platform being created for London Oxford Airport and a number of refurbished five-spot ULD beds requested by a client.
A new start
Early contracts with TAG Aviation and handler dnata provided a foundation for the company, but today’s customer portfolio includes other major players in the industry such as manufacturing giant Boeing and handlers Swissport, Cobalt, and Gibair, as well as many others of varying sizes and natures.
And the recent move to a new office at Farnborough Airport, Hampshire, represents “a new start” for the business, Cardy explains. “It’s a pleasure to be based here,” he told Airside, pointing to the space, cleanliness and all-round efficiency of the airfield and its management.
“It’s logical to be here at the airport because of the nature of our business,” he continues. It is also close to one of the company’s clients, with TAG Aviation being in the same business group as the airport marketed as ‘the business aviation gateway to London’.
Airside Airport Equipment’s engineering workshop, which has been operating on behalf of another of Cardy’s business interests for about 13 years, is only a short drive down the road.
It’s important to keep up with trends in GSE design and manufacturing, Cardy says – trends driven in the main by changing customer requirements. Thus, for example, he points to the much more widespread production and use of fully electric GSE.
Meanwhile, internally at Airside Airport Equipment, there’s more to be done in terms of marketing – promoting the business through such mechanisms as an improved website, Cardy predicts. He is also expecting to widen the company’s product range through further partnerships with other equipment manufacturers. Cardy is often asked to represent other companies in the UK, he notes, and this might bring further opportunities.
He and the company will be at inter airport in Munich this October to display its offerings.