When a third-party service provider wins new business at any of its stations, there’s often a rush to secure the necessary handling equipment. GSE providers have to be ready to step up at very short notice if they are to secure this sort of business
In late 2013 global third-party services provider Worldwide Flight Services, (WFS) inked a three-year contract with leisure carrier Jet2.com to handle the airline on the ramp at the UK’s Manchester International Airport. From 1 January last year, WFS began providing a full range of ramp services, including aircraft pushback and towing as well as baggage loading and unloading, at the gateway for the airline.
The deal meant a significant expansion in WFS duties at Manchester, and a consequent increase in ground support equipment required on the ramp. Indeed, according to Rushlift, the London-based company with a long history in materials handling equipment (MHE) but which moved successfully into the aviation GSE business as recently as 2013, over £2.8 million (US$4.3 million) worth of equipment was required by the handler in the space of less than a couple of months. Moreover, the GSE required included 110 units of varied equipment that – says Brian Grady, corporate account manager at Rushlift – would normally take at least six months to source.
It was vital to get the gear into Manchester as quickly as possible. “Ground support means having the right equipment at the right location and to be able to respond to the demands of an industry that has severe penalties for delays,” Grady notes.
“From our first conversation to the first delivery took just eight weeks. In that time we dealt with over a dozen different suppliers to get their best possible production times and ensure the equipment was delivered on time.”
WFS has turned to Rushlift before, having relied on the MHE side of the latter’s business to provide support for the handler’s Heathrow operation. Unlike the steadier workflow usually associated with demands on MHE, GSE requirements are usually driven by the amount of aircraft arriving at a particular airport at a specific time, Grady points out. “You need two sets of steps – front and back – for passengers to embark or disembark. Four aircraft arriving at around the same time means eight sets of steps are needed – it’s that simple.”
Another part of the challenge was to identify the right mix of new and used equipment to keep WFS within budget, while providing the desired level of capability. According to Rushlift, the company responded by flying overseas to meet suppliers where necessary, while calling in favours and putting in “the extra hours” to locate GSE ranging from pushbacks and ground power units to belt loaders, baggage carts, towbars and steps.
“As a full service rental, maintenance and asset management business, we maintain and manage a wide variety of equipment,” adds Rushlift’s executive chairman, Peter Cosgrove. “Our GSE operation follows similar business rhythms as our existing businesses, meaning we bring a wealth of experience and expertise to a sector that has yearned for modernisation. By responding quickly and professionally, we gave WFS the confidence they needed to move forward with their ambitious plans.”
Rushlift’s sister-company, Specialist Crane Hire, was also called into action to help with the delivery of a TREPEL widebody pallet and container high loader. The loader was shipped from Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, to Manchester where it was off-loaded with the help of Specialist Crane Hire’s mobile crane equipment.
Elsewhere in the UK, Rushlft GSE has continued to invest in its London Heathrow facility and in what it describes as “industry-leading levels of account and information management”. Customers are now managing their own fleets online, ensuring they are fully aware of their own equipment’s availability.
Grady informs: “We also hold important maintenance documentation online to ensure complete traceability. Our technical expertise is unsurpassed and, combined with a substantial parts holding, we maintain an enviable uptime record.
“Whatever the equipment, whatever the circumstances, our priorities remain the same,” he adds, “a safe and timely aircraft
departure. We are driven by our customers’ needs and we will source any equipment necessary to get the job done.”