Spring 2022

Aviator follows path of GSE sustainability

Aviator follows path of GSE sustainability

When acquiring ground support equipment to cope with new business, aviation services provider Aviator Airport Alliance looks to go for environmentally friendly electric equipment as part of a wider focus on sustainability

Aviator Airport Alliance, a major provider of aviation services at airports across the Nordic region and a member of the wider aviation service business Avia Solutions Group, took on new business last year at a number of the airports at which it handles. Indeed, Jo Alex Tanem, Aviator Airport Alliance’s CEO, recalls: “2021 was a truly successful year for Aviator, with a great deal of new partnerships established as well as prolonging existing contracts.”
To support the expanded operational requirements, Aviator invested in a large quantity of new GSE, and it was careful that the equipment would have as little impact on the environment as possible.
“To meet the needs and demands of our clients, who expect quality and professionalism every step of the way, we have invested in a [large] amount of new equipment,” Tanem says. “A large part of Aviator’s GSE is already electric, yet we always strive to buy electric GSE when possible, which will increase the number of our sustainable machinery significantly over the years to come.”
He continues: “We have a great relationship with such well-known manufacturers in the GSE market as Kalmar Motor, MULAG, JBT, Vestergaard, Mallaghan, and providers [such] as TCR and HiSERV; thus I have no doubt that sustainable GSE… will be the majority [of] our fleet within the short term.”
Today, Aviator has a total of 1,297 GSE units on its books, not counting dollies and trolleys. Approximately 70% of this equipment is to be found in Sweden and Norway, where the company has the majority of its stations.
“Currently, the number of GSE units in our other serviced countries, Denmark and Finland, amounts to 380, yet we plan to introduce new equipment to meet our customers’ planned growth,” adds Johan Selen, Aviator’s GSE Repair Shop manager.
Operating sustainable GSE is one element of the eco-friendly operations envisaged in the company’s sustainability plan. Aviator hopes to be carbon-neutral within about five years.
Magnus Söderberg, Aviator’s business improvement director, observes: “Electric ground handling machinery saves the company on fuel costs and lowers our environmental impact.
“Such GSE allows us to operate equipment in closed gate areas with zero emissions, no small particle pollution and with practically eliminated equipment noise,” he continues. “In addition, we will save a lot in service and maintenance as the newer machines do not require service as frequently.”
Tanem admits that there are challenges associated with operating electric GSE. “At the moment, our biggest challenge is de-icing,” he says. “Doing de-icing procedures on just electricity becomes an issue, as a lot of electricity is required to heat the de-icing liquid. But I believe that in no time we will have efficient electric equipment that will be able to do that without an issue.”

Staying strong
While Aviator did win new business last year, the last couple of years have certainly represented a challenge. Says Tanem: “There’s no denying that the global Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the whole aviation industry. Unfortunately, Aviator was not an exception. We are still working towards reaching the results of our record year 2019.
“But regardless of the hurdles, we did manage to remain strong, retain our clients and sign new contracts. I believe that it is all thanks to the great team we have at Aviator, their continuous efforts and extreme professionalism.”
Aside from following the mandated requirements of national governments in the Nordic countries as well as various recommendations from more local authorities, Aviator provided protective equipment for its staff and introduced social distancing as far as was possible. It also, says Tanem, “optimised our operations and provided employee training” as a response to the new pandemic-affected operating environment.
Aviator’s operations were primarily impacted by changes in demand for services, so it had to rethink some of the ways in which it operates. “But demand is slowly getting back to normal and, with that, our operations as well,” Tanem confirms.
Aviator provides services at 15 airports across the Nordic countries, just the same number as it did pre-pandemic. And, says Tanem: “All our stations saw improved results in 2021 when compared to 2020.
“Last year, we managed to extend and add additional services to our existing long-term partners that include well-known and respected names like the largest low-cost carrier in Europe, Ryanair, as well as Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Finnair, easyJet, FedEx and UPS.
“Additionally, we have gained the trust of brand-new clients, such as the new Norwegian airline Flyr, and a new Icelandic low-cost airline, PLAY.”
Currently, about half of Aviator’s GSE is electric, and the service provider plans to increase that ratio by 10% each year. “I have no doubt that we will be able to reach that goal with no problems,” Tanem insists.
For example, “Last year we acquired Vestergaard Company’s fully electric 12-ton [de-icer] chassis as well as a Kalmar FB600EL, a fully electric tow tractor for pushback and maintenance towing of widebody aircraft, as well as a Kalmar TBL190 electric pushback.”
The Vestergaard 12-ton de-icer and Kalmar FB600EL are already in operation, while the Kalmar TBL190 electric pushback will be delivered later this year.
Aviator’s focus on sustainability has its supporters outside as well as within the business. “All the airlines we partner with have sustainability on their agenda, and it is very important to them that we have green initiatives as well,” says Tanem. “Airport authorities are also working with us and want to form a joint green strategy.”
Such support complements the other benefits offered by electric GSE. “The initial cost may be higher, but the running costs are normally lower with electric GSE, so over time, it will save costs,” Tanem considers. “However, going green or carbon neutral is something we all have a responsibility towards; hence, in Aviator’s view, there’s no alternative.”

Unprecedented challenges
“The pandemic showed that at any time we might have to face unprecedented challenges and that we have to always be ready for that,” Tanem remarks. “I believe that businesses will have to more closely monitor their procedures, constantly look for ways to optimise and digitise operations and introduce more intricate contingency plans.
“As the world is slowly returning to normal, even with the dip seen now in the first quarter of 2022, we are recruiting and training a large number of employees to be ready for the summer traffic, which will be the largest volumes Aviator has ever seen in the Nordics.”