Aurrigo launches autonomous luggage and cargo transport solution

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Autonomous vehicle specialist, Aurrigo, has launched Auto-Dolly, its autonomous luggage and cargo system that promises to offer a range of operational and financial savings to the aviation sector.

The new system will provide airports with the opportunity to move luggage and cargo around indoor and outdoor settings without the need for human operators, as it has the ability to navigate autonomously from one task to another, collecting and dropping off the luggage or cargo automatically using a powered roller deck and the unique ability ‘crab’ sideways when docking and parallel parking. It is also capable of operating in snow, heavy rain, direct sunlight and fog.

Trials of the Auto-Dolly have already shown that this technology can reduce the number of traditional tugs and trailors used to transport luggage and cargo by two thirds, as well as substantially cutting carbon emissions.

“The aviation sector is going through one of the worst periods in living memory. When it emerges, ti will need to explore ways where it can achieve cost savings and increase operational efficiencies, including turning around planes and getting them away on time,” said David Keene, Chief Executive of Aurrigo. He added that Auto-Dolly will revolutionise airports by improving efficiency in the way aircraft luggage and cargo is handled. In addition, it virtually eliminates all human contact from the baggage and cargo process and is able to carry a load.

“Our autonomous vehicles are controlled by our AI based cyber secure fleet management system called Auto-Connect, which intelligently assigns Auto-Dollies in the optimum way to meet the strict operational deadlines at the airport,” added Keene.

Alongside the Auto-Dolly, Aurrigo has also launched its Auto-Sim product – an airport simulator tool allowing customers to baseline current operations and then model how to migrate from manual methods through to a fully automated Auto-Dolly.

“Engagement with lead customers, together with continuing on-site airport trials, have been fantastic and we’re now in the position to launch our Auto-Dolly solution to the world,” concluded Keene. “This could equate to hundreds of millions of pounds of cost reduction every year for the airport industry, plus the  huge environmental savings gained by reducing the overall emissions of the fleet of today’s inefficient tractors and trailors.”

Air bp installs carbon emissions reducing technology on all fuel hydrants in Portugal

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International aviation fuel products and service supplier, Air bp, is rolling out its innovative start-stop technology on all its fuel hydrant dispensers in Portugal – the first country in the fuel suppliers operated network to achieve this milestone.

Reducing carbon emissions of each vehicle by an average of 25%, Air bp’s start-stop technology automatically shuts down and restarts the vehicle engine to reduce the amount of time the engine spends idling, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions. The overall saving is estimated to be 3.4 tonnes of CO2e  per vehicle per year.

Effective immediately, the start-stop technology will be installed on all Air bp’s newly procured hydrant dispensers. The overall aim is to have all existing hydrant dispensers across its global operated network, that are less than 10 years old, retrofitted with the technology by the end of 2021.

Having achieved carbon neutrality across its global operated airport into-plane fuel facilities in 2016, the start-stop technology is one of several elements that form part of Air bp’s carbon management plan.

“Our carbon management plan is a key part of Air bp’s global operations. In 2016, we made a 10-year pledge to retain our carbon neutral accreditation. In relation to start-stop technology, over the past two years we have worked hard to achieved this first milestone and continue to work determinedly towards achieving our aims,” said Gigi Yuen, Air bp’s Global Carbon Neutral Lead.

Other initiatives that are used by the company to reduce carbon emissions across its global operated facilities include: reducing the number of road journeys made by trucks; using electric powered vehicles and using an in-line magnetic filter, Magna-Strain, within pipelines to reduce the electrical demand on pumps.

Kaunas Airport welcomes new world-class aircraft paint shop

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Following a dynamic growth trajectory in recent years, MAAS Aviation has opened a purpose-built world-class aircraft paint shop at Lithuania’s Kaunas Airport.

The facility is the first of its kind in Lithuania and demonstrates MAAS Aviation’s expanding global footprint. It now has 11 paint shops (three in Hamburg, two in Kaunas, two in Maastricht, one at Fokker Woensdrecht and three in Mobile Alabama) and this latest addition increases their overall capacity in Europe by 40%. Alongside the latest technologies, the new facility also includes systems to ensure safe and secure operations and to manage the environmental impact of the company’s activities.

All MAAS Aviation facilities are certified to EN9100, ISO9001 and ISO14001 standards and with a multi-million euro investment from MAAS Aviation, the new twin-bay narrow body paint shop is capable of accommodating up to two A321 sized aircraft simultaneously.

According to Tim Macdougald, COE of MAAS Aviation, the central/ eastern European location of Kaunas was chosen as a result of several influencing factors including the universal willingness of Lithuanian authorities to bring a new industry to Lithuania. “I’d particularly like to mention Invest Lithuania and the Airport Authority of Lithuania for supporting a project that spearheads the development of aviation services at Kaunas; and to FL Technics for committing to build a partnership with MAAS to combine our services with theirs for the benefit of airline and lease customers; and to Ryanair for its continued business and trust in being our launch customer at the site.”

Macdougald added that MAAS Aviation’s business benefits from long term customer contracts – including with Airbus. “The standard of our facilities reflects our design expertise and includes full climate control paint shops, computerised building management systems and datalogging, high-lux lighting, and fully-lined clean paint shops. Our use of aircraft access docking systems eliminates the risk of damaging aircraft during painting due to the avoidance of moving equipment.”

The build at Kaunas Airport was completed on time and within budget with Macdougald crediting its professional team spearheaded by Cobalt Law in ensuring the project ran smoothly from a legal and contractual perspective and its design team headed by Ian Guinness of MRO Facilities International.

The 40% increase in MAAS Aviation’s European MRO capcity enables the company to capture more business during the peak seasons. “Our partnership with FL Technics will combine our services for the benefit of airline and leasing company customers – together we will offer an outstanding aircraft redelivery centre-of-excellence at Kaunas Airport.”

The company forecasts that this year across all 11 of its facilities it will paint up to 300 aircraft with turnover expected to exceed $28 million.

Kempegowda Airport partners with Envirotainer for temperature-controlled cargo solutions

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Kempegowda Airport (BLR) in Bengaluru has become the fourth airport in India and the second in South India to partner with Envirotainer – a world leader in active cold-chain solutions for air cargo.

This new collaboration will enable Kempegowda Airport to provide customers with advanced temperature-controlled air cargo solutions throughout the entire journey.

The temperature-controlled supply-chain facility will allow pharmaceutical companies and their logistics partners to move temperature-sensitive cargo across the world.

Essentially, this means that temperature is maintained throughout the journey to create an unbroken cold chain from manufacturing to the point of consumption. Backed by two dedicated cold zones, operated by Air India SATS Airport Services (AI-SATS) and Menzies Aviation Bobba Bangalore (MABB), the new cold-chain solution will boost the movement of pharmaceutical products from major manufacturing clusters such as Hyderabad, Goa, Vishakhapatnam and other places in South India. AI-SATS will provide the handling and storing services for Envirotainer.

Pharmaceutical products account for 13% of the total international cargo throughput from BLR Airport each year, with USA, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Vietnam, Philippines, Germany, Nigeria, Algeria, Uganda and Russia being the top destinations.

Palanga Airport pushes ahead with runway reconstruction

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Latvian construction company A.C.B. has won the tender to reconstruct the runway at Palanga Airport in Lithuania.

The runway reconstruction project will include the taxiway and some parts of the apron. Airport operations are likely to be suspended while the work is undertaken later this year (September and October 2021) for a period of around 45 days.

A.C.B. will carry out the work for €13.6 million and Lithuanian Airports expects to sign a contract with the Latvian construction firm once all the necessary procedures and verification processes have been carried  out. The airport operator hopes to confirm the contract in April.

According to Dainius Čiuplys, Head of Operations and Infrastructure Department  at Lithuanian Airports, “The runway of Palanga Airport was last reconstructed in 2007. This means that its life cycle is already nearing the end and investment in renovation is required. We are convinced that, with the recovery of the aviation industry, the strategically important airport of Lithuania’s coastal region will be popular and the demand to travel through it will definitely remain. This is evidenced by double-digit growth in the number of passengers handled by the airport before the pandemic. Our main task in the context of this project is to ensure that the recovery of aviation would take place with safe infrastructure and would generate added value for the whole region.”

While Lithuanian Airports had originally planned to finance the infrastructure works using its own funds, the impact of the pandemic on passenger traffic and revenue streams has meant that it is now working alongside the Ministry of Transport and Communications to seek an alternative funding source.

All-electric aircraft tug helps Munich Airport advance decarbonisation goals

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Aircraft at Munich Airport in Germany are now being towed using electric pushback tugs equipped with the latest 700V lithium-ion battery technology.

The resource-saving handling equipment can effortlessly tow passenger aircraft up to a take-off weight of 352 tonnes – which includes wide-bodied aircraft.

Named after the mythical bird, the “PHOENIX” E can achieve speeds of up to 32km per hour with consistently high tractive power. And through short intermediate charging, the completely emission-free all-electric pushback tug allows reliable round-the-clock operations.

If the loading capacity is ever insufficient, “PHOENIX” E is also equipped with a range extender that enables operation with diesel in exceptional cases. Compared to conventional diesel tractors, the maintenance effort is significantly lower.

With the deployment of the all-electric aircraft pushback tug, EFM – a joint subsidiary of Munich Airport and Lufthansa – is contributing to the German gateway’s climate protection goals, which are for the airport to be operated in a completely carbon-neutral manner by 2030 at the latest.

To achieve this goal, Munich Airport is implementing a wealth of technological innovations in all areas and has massively expanded not only the proportion of electric vehicles in its fleet, but also the charging infrastructure

Business rate relief welcomed by airports but it’s not enough

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While UK airports have welcomed the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme, which opened for applications on Friday 29 January to assist commercial airports and ground handlers who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, more significant support is being called for.

The UK Government’s multimillion-pound support scheme, for which applications close on 21 February, has been set up to support the aviation sector while the government continues to roll out its vaccination programme.

Commercial airports and ground handlers are able to apply for up to £8 million each to support fixed costs while travel restrictions remain in place, successful applicants can expect to receive their funding by the end of this financial year.

However, Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association’s Chief Executive underlined that when the support scheme was originally announced, the business rate relief was, “very welcome and came alongside a real hope for an initial recovery through the Test-to-Release Scheme. However, the pandemic took a turn for the worse and the outlook for 2021 has worsened significantly.” With airports effectively closed again by the Government’s recently tightened travel restrictions, AOA is now calling for much more significant support to protect jobs and ensure airports are fighting fit to boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Dee also highlighted that while revenues have dropped off a cliff due to the lack of passenger traffic, most airports have remained open, sustaining consistent losses for nearly 12 months, in order to facilitate essential freight, emergency services, military and offshore oil, gas and wind flights.

The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme is open for applications until 21 February 2021.

Menzies’ joint venture awarded contract for ground handling services at Baghdad Airport

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The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) has awarded the contract for the delivery of a full suite of ground handling, cargo and fuelling services at Baghdad International Airport to Menzies’ joint venture with Iraqi Airways, trading as MASIL.

Listed as the United Iraqi Company for Airports and Ground Handling Services Limited, MASIL is a joint venture between Iraqi Airways, Air bp, Menzies Aviation and Al Burhan Group.  This is the first license of its kind to be awarded by the ICAA to a foreign aviation services company and one of the key aims of the joint venture will be to train and develop Iraqi nationals to assume key positions.

According to Menzies, the award comes as Iraq looks to global industry players to help grow its aviation industry, which is seen as a key driver for the economy, with plans to upgrade key infrastructure and services at Baghdad Airport. In addition to being the hub for Iraqi Airways and Fly Baghdad, the airport currently handles all aircraft movements for airlines such as Qatar Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines.

“We are pleased to have been awarded the exclusive contract at Baghdad International Airport and we look forward to supporting the development of Iraq’s world class operating procedures and training schemes,” said Charles Wyley, EVP Middle East and Africa at Menzies Aviation.

“Menzies provides passenger, ramp and cargo services at over 200 airports globally and we’re excited to share our unparalleled experience to help build knowledge and competence within the workforce in Baghdad,” Wyley added.

San Francisco Airport pushes ahead with runway revamp

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With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting on flight schedules and resulting in heavily reduced aviation activity, San Francisco Airport (SFO) in the US has accelerated runway improvement projects.

The airport plans to close one of its runways (28R) for a four-month period so that it can carry out upgrades, which were initially scheduled to take place in 2022. The initial phase of accelerated work on this runway began in October last year and the latest project, which is slated to begin in April 2021, will see the remainder of the runway being repaved. Two taxiways will also be constructed, while eight runway-taxiway intersections will be expanded and lighting infrastructure will be improved.

According to a statement by airport officials, SFO chose to advance this construction project during the current period of reduced flight activity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to reduce the extent of disruption to services, such as delays and cancellations caused by the runway closures at a later date. Airlines are currently planning to operate less than 50% of the flights originally scheduled prior to the pandemic.

Golden Gate Constructors, have been awarded the contract for the Runway 28R Rehabilitation Phase 2 project, which is expected to cost in the region of $127 million.

Swissport appointed as preferred partner for Qantas at three Australian airports

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Swissport Australia has been appointed as Qantas’ preferred ground handling partner at three airports in the country including: Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. The five-year agreement will cover up to 70,000 flights per year.

“For almost 20 years, Swissport has been the largest local provider of ground services for the Qantas Group. Our teams will now support the group at 20 airports in Australia and New Zealand, along with several airports in Europe, Asia, Africa and the US,” said Glenn Ruterhford, Executive Vice President Swissport Asia-Pacific.

In order to achieve the highest levels of operational and service performance for its customers, Swissport has developed and invested in critical systems, processes and technology. “Qantas is seeking better performance in ground operations particularly as they fight to recover from the impact of COVID-19,” continued Rutherford. “Their decision to outsource is in line with most other major airlines around the world. It is a fantastic opportunity for our extraordinary workforce, which has been incredibly loyal and supportive over many years, and for whom 2020 has been particularly challenging.”

News of Swissport’s appointment by Qantas follows September’s announcement that the ground handler was chosen as preferred ramp services provider for Jetstar’s operations in Sydney, Cairns and Avalon, adding to an extensive Jetstar network of 11 stations in Australia and New Zealand. This means that Swissport Australia is providing airport ground services for 25 airline customers at 24 airports across Australia with a workforce of some 4,000 qualified staff. In addition, Swissport will be expanding its air cargo and lounge business in Australia too. In 2021, the Switzerland based company will open two cargo warehouses in Sydney and  Melbourne. Its first airport lounge at Perth Airport is expected to open its doors for airline passengers when international flying resumes.