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Posted 5 June 2020 · Add Comment

Engineering access equipment is the basic, yet essential, ingredient of any MRO operation. Though much of it is low tech, these pieces of equipment are anything but out of date in their conception and specification. Chuck Grieve reports.

Effective equipment is essential for staying ahead in the competitive MRO market, especially as the world of digital is integrated into aviation solutions at a rapid pace.
That’s how Stuart McOnie, managing director of British engineering company, Semmco, views the bigger picture.
He knows what he’s talking about: his company has been designing and manufacturing engineering access equipment for more than 25 years.
Semmco is no stranger to Middle East MROs. Many deploy its range of maintenance access platforms and ground support equipment, which includes the nitrogen/oxygen trolley with digital panel, and the SMART range of digital tyre inflators with pressure checks. The SMART units reduce the burden for engineers by eliminating the need to wear a head torch, with instant results on the tyre pressure and checks.
Business development manager, Ben Hoyle, covers the Middle East, Asia and Australasia from the Dubai office, which also manages the company’s local manufacturing through a specialist metal fabricator in Jebel Ali Free Zone.
“We’ve taken on board the feedback from our customers and developed a range of products that suit their requirements,” said Hoyle. The Semmco wheel-and-brake change trailer, for example, has an open-air version with no roof because it becomes intolerably hot in the summer. “We arrived at that design through talking to customers,” he added.
Although its equipment does not need original equipment manufacturer approval, Semmco consults with OEMs and, on occasion, works in close partnership with them to ensure any new access products are fit for purpose.
Typical of its innovative low-tech products is the Semmco wheel mover. Manoeuvrable and easy to use, the device is designed to the technicians move any aircraft wheel safely, efficiently and securely, regardless of its size.
The wheel mover is fitted with a dead man’s handle that automatically engages the brake when the bar is released. Adjustable webbing restraints secure any size of wheel to the frame so that it cannot move during transportation.
Hoyle said the company is conscious of the fact that its equipment must continue to function through extremes of temperature – up to 50-60 degrees in summer. “We’re constantly consulting with customers to see what they want,” he explained.
“Everything we sell is able to cope with the conditions here. Even the rechargeable battery on our nitrogen/oxygen trolley is an up-rated version for hot weather.”
Semmco can develop variations on its products for different markets, depending on the criteria of the end-user. The company’s equipment, including platforms for popular aircraft in the region, such as the Boeing 777 and 787 and the Airbus A350 and A380, is currently in use in every country in the region with airline and MRO customers.
Engine stands are the focus of a business called, appropriately, EngineStands24. This subsidiary of Estonia-based Magnetic MRO has been making inroads into the Middle East, leasing and selling stands for a variety of “the most popular engine types in the region” from its Dubai hub, which was launched last year in cooperation with the Emirati company, Chabok Aviation.
The facility, near Al Maktoum International Airport, started operations in February last year with a stock of stands for narrow-body engines, including the CFM56-5A/B, CFM56-7B and V2500, which it leases, trades, sells or stores.
It plans to expand into wide-body stands for GE90, GEnx-1B, Trent XWB, Trent 700 and PW4000 engines.
The company was launched in 2016 as “the industry’s first e-store for lease, trading, logistics and storage of aerospace engine stands”. Customers also have the opportunity to track its stands via an online system, making it a convenient solution for the user.
Dubai is EngineStands24’s fourth location and first outside Europe. Besides the Middle East, it has access to stands in Europe, the USA and Asia.
Dean Entekabi, managing director of Chabok Aviation FZCO, said the tie-up with EngineStands24 was a “significant and very promising step” that would allow both companies to expand their range of services for the added convenience of local and global customers.
Daiva Zemaite, head of EngineStands24, said the Dubai hub – a strategic location for continued expansion in the Middle East MRO market – has already added new customers.
UAE-based Arab Suppliers, a member of the diversified GN Group of India, has been providing equipment to flag-carriers and MROs from throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, since 1982.
Its product lines include docks for narrow-body and wide-body airliners, from complete nose-to-tail solutions to configurations for engines, wings, tails, fuselages and noses. It also offers maintenance platforms and stands for helicopters and a variety of access stands.
The company has extensive experience in both civil and military aviation, boasting a team skilled in design and supply of docking systems and adjustable maintenance platforms suitable for working at height.
“Our access systems can provide customised solutions that successfully address the needs of safety compliance, speed to completion and ergonomics,” said a spokesman.
The company represents a wide range of international brands, including Werner of the UK.
Spanish company, Buildair, has come up with a simple solution to the need for quick covered space – inflatable hangars.
The Barcelona-based company designs and builds a range of units that it says can offer unique benefits the MRO industry.
Commercial director, Felipe Cano Ventas, describes the fabric structure as a “kind of cage” of inflated tubes and straps. It’s light, portable, reusable and quick to install. And once inflated, it stays put.
The units are designed to withstand winds up to 120km/h from any direction, and proved their durability by emerging unscathed from Spain’s worst-ever storm in 2014. “We had winds of more than 110km/h,” said Cano Ventas. “Buildings around the hangar were damaged by the hangar itself was not.”
The structures, technically membrane-strap-anchorage systems, are made up of inflatable tubes which, when inflated, are stabilised by an innovative network of straps that also holds the structure to its anchoring points.
An automatic control system can adjust the low pressure inside the tubes in response to external factors, such as wind load, to limit temporary changes in shape.
Cano Ventas said the largest inflatable hangar currently deployed, for Airbus in Madrid, measures 54x110 metres. The design team, which has a background in civil engineering and structural analysis, believes a span of 90 metres is possible.
Buildair clients include Lufthansa, Chilean carrier LAN, Airbus and Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI).
The WinGrip vacuum anchor system has its champions in Middle East MRO hangars – and for good reason. This simple but effective piece of equipment protects both workers and aircraft from harm.
Made by MSA, the Latchways WinGrip is designed as a practical solution for protection against falls in an aircraft MRO and manufacturing environment. It
comes in single and multiple user systems.
One or more of the devices are fixed by suction to wings, stabilisers or fuselage without damaging the aircraft, while doing away with the need for an overhead lifeline. It can be used on wet or dry surfaces, in the hangar or on the apron.
The anchoring system works on compressed air from a local or remote source, such as the refillable nitrogen bottle supplied as part of the kit.
In single-user configuration, a worker wearing a safety harness attaches their own safety line to the anchor point. The system allows 360-degree movement, while constraining the worker to a pre-set distance to prevent accidentally falling off.
With the multiple user system, up to four workers attach themselves to lines running between anchor points across the entire surface being worked on.
International sales manager, Simon Francis, said the system is easy to use, with minimal setup and removal time. If the vacuum is lost prematurely, the anchor points emit audible and visual alarms.

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