A new ambulift is soon to make its presence felt in the GSE arena; and it’s pitched at the higher end of the market
Verona, Italy-headquartered Baumann was founded in 1969 and is best known for its materials handling equipment (MHE), primarily its side-loading forklifts. Now employing approximately 100 people, it has sold more than 10,000 lifting vehicles into more than 60 countries, and has dealers based right around the world to support its global sales efforts.
About 99% of its sales consist of exports beyond Italy, confirms Baumann managing director Klaus Pirpamer. All its manufacturing facilities are located in Italy, however.
In 2004, Lufthansa LEOS – the GSE engineering specialist – was in the market for a new vehicle for passengers with restricted mobility (PRM), especially one that could handle the impending new arrival on the scene, the super-jumbo A380. Baumann built an ambulift on the chassis of a side-loader, technology with which it was very familiar, and sold two vehicles to Lufthansa LEOS.
However, it was clear that a side-loading ambulift was not the best solution, says Pirpamer. For one thing, the movement of the platform and cabin tended to be too jerky. So, three years, ago, the company decided to build an ambulift that lifts vertically and that could still handle the heights of an A380.
The result is the PaxLift, which is now in early-stage production. Two potential customers are near to a purchase, currently closely investigating prototypes. Plus a prototype will be on the PaxLift stand at inter airport Europe this year, Pirpamer reports.
The PaxLift is to be made available in three size variants, although only one – the PaxLift XL, which has a maximum operating height of 5.8m – has so far been built. It is compact, ideal for congested aprons, being a mere 2.55m wide, and is built for the comfort of its passengers, with hydraulic suspension and full four-wheel steering. The largest of the models is expected to be able to serve A380s, with a maximum operating height of 8m.
The PaxLift is ideal for stop-and-go type airport operations, Pirpamer says, but is very smooth in its drive and in its cabin raising mechanism (three patented lifting columns provide the smooth lift, while fully hydraulic suspension provides for comfort during driving). The sole driver/operator remains with his passengers in the main area of the vehicle. It can accommodate up to six wheelchair passengers, it can operate in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Centigrade to +50 degrees thanks to a climate control heating and air conditioning system, and its internal layout can be customised according to client requirements (and for VIP transport if required).
It has a Tier 4-compliant diesel engine and is capable of reaching a speed of 30km/h. Pirpamer also expects an electrically powered variant (the E-PaxLift) to be available as early as the second half of next year.
The PaxLift boasts the latest in ramp safety measures, including wide-angle cameras and laser point indication on an aircraft fuselage that measures the distance to the aircraft from the vehicle, and provides that information in the cab to the driver. It also features automatic stop technology for when the vehicle finalises its approach to an aircraft. Automatic speed reduction technology limits the vehicle’s speed to 2km/h when the unit is in lifting mode.
“We strongly believe in this market,” declares Pirpamer. The creation of the purpose-built PaxLift – as opposed to an adaption of a commercial vehicle – is a reflection of this, he says. He expects demand for the ambulift to be potentially as much as 50 to 100 units a year. The market is quite disparate, he points out, with no single manufacturer being dominant – different countries tend to have preferred different ambulift suppliers, but demand for PRM operations on-airport is growing.
“We need a new standard on PRM handling and this is what we are working to support,” Pirpamer concludes.