By Juergen Strommer
How can airports with a limited number of aircraft parking positions increase their capacity?
Rapid growth within the middle east's aviation sector
The Middle East's aviation sector has always been a little different to what we've witnessed in other parts of the world. Air traffic literally boomed, which prompted the development of several new airports in the region. Such an approach has proved vital in increasing airport capacity, as well as grooming the airports as individual international hubs. Now, the trends are moving towards efficiency for existing stands as well as for expansion. One clear trend that we are witnessing at the moment is making parking positions more efficient, and several measures have been adopted in an effort to achieve this objective.
The downside of remote parking positions at airport facilities
Originally, many airports in the region were operating remote parking positions. This entailed a number of limitations, such as long bus transfer for embarking and disembarking, as well as a huge GSE fleet to service the aircraft. Clearly, these limitations have been identified by airports when analysing their efficiency. To address this dilemma, consultants, designers and industry experts have come up with a newly-developed gate concept that focuses on point-of-use (POU).
A new concept that aims to boost the efficiency of operations
The thinking behind this concept is to provide all the specifics for servicing the aircraft at the point of use on the ground. This is done through fixed and dedicated installations, ensuring lower airport congestion with higher turnaround time, reduced air and noise pollution, and improved security and safety levels. By serving the requirements of the aircraft faster, airport capacities can be increased without the need for physical expansion. This development has been supported with the Cavotec Gate Concept, which allows a maximum provision of six aircraft ground services (400Hz - PCAir - Blue Water - Potable Water - Sewage - Air Start) through a single point: Cavotec's underground pop-up pit systems. This eliminates the need for mobile ground support equipment (GSE) vehicles, translating to a lower risk of accidents, lower maintenance and repair costs of the support vehicles, and reduced capital investment requirements for GSE vehicles. Less manpower is also required to service multiple aircraft, translating to savings in terms of labour costs, as well as limiting the occurrence of human errors.
Further benefits of adopting the gate concept at airports
As a partner of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Cavotec actively supports the FAA-IATA runway incursions prevention programme, which in essence targets the reduction of vehicle or pedestrian deviation (V-PD). In addition, the Cavotec Gate concept decreases the usage of auxiliary power units (APU) as the system can provide pre-conditioned cabin air with the Compressed Air PCAir solution as soon as the aircraft is positioned. Slashing just minutes from APU usage registers savings of millions of dollars every year. These savings can then be redirected towards other initiatives in further improving airport efficiency, as well as expanding the airport's capacity.
The bonus of reduced insurance costs and improved security
Since the pop-up pits are fixed equipment that eradicates the risk of collision between traditional mobile GSE, the airports have been able to renegotiate their premiums and reduce their insurance cost. This stands apart from the lower number of vehicle and associated driver insurances needed. The limited number of operators has also improved the security situation, which has been a major topic post 9/11 and the associated cost should not be neglected.
Success stories from bahrain and the united arab emirates
One of the places where this concept has been initiated is Dubai Airport (DXB) T3/C2. Without a doubt, Emirates Airline has reaped the benefits of Dubai Airport Company's strategic decision to integrate the gate concept, evidence of which can be ascertained by looking at the airline's latest financial results. In December 2009, Cavotec Middle East was also awarded a EUR30 million contract by the Bahrain Airport Company to supply various ground support equipment as part of the expansion of Bahrain International Airport. An integral component of the order is the implementation of the gate concept to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of aircraft servicing operations at the airport.