in Features / Airports

Lighting the way to safer solutions

Posted 16 March 2018 · Add Comment

Keith Mwanalushi speaks to Alexander Herring from ADB Safegate about the airfield and gate management projects that are modernising and lighting up African airports.

To enable more efficient and safer aircraft ground movement, airports need to upgrade to the right kind of systems and technologies.
Ideally, these should be the type that can be operated and maintained easily for better management and for the security and safety of passengers.
ADB Safegate has been providing airfield solutions in Africa since 1951. “We are supporting the development and modernisation of the continent’s airfield infrastructure,” said Alexander Herring, regional director for sales, Africa.
Herring said ADB has been present across the continent with a strong team of sales, service technicians, and engineers based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as offices in Paris, Hamburg and Brussels. A network of authorised distributors complements this customer support structure.
“We have built up a real end-to-end approach, which encompasses all of our solutions,” said Herring as he pointed out airfield ground lighting (AGL) products and related systems, as well as gate and tower solutions, and systems integration. “We help our customers improve their airport safety, reliability and sustainability with a focus on reducing operational complexities.”
Herring is fully aware that Africa’s aviation industry is faced with a series of important challenges. As testament to this, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), at the end of its recent World Aviation Forum (IWAF) in Abuja, Nigeria, called on people to address the challenges of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for the development of aviation infrastructure.
At the forum, the ICAO called for planned, strategic, consistent and long-term funding of airport infrastructure in Africa to build capacity that would be able to process the increase in air travellers on the continent, which is projected to double from 120 million passengers in 2015 to 300 million by 2035.
Herring said airport development financing and the market remained volatile because of political, economic and environmental instability, but there was a huge potential in the various upcoming greenfield airports. “Despite the challenges Africa is facing, the long-term forecast is that growth might only be delayed but not stopped. We know that traffic is expected to grow above the industry average in the coming decade,” he stated.
Herring is also confident that African airport managements are already aware of their corporate responsibility to ensure cost-efficient, safe operations by making wise investments in facilities and technologies. “Despite the challenge of poor funding holding back African airports in terms of meeting technology needs, managements know that these efficient technologies are vital as there is no substitute to safety,” he stressed.
In May 2017, ADB Safegate announced a project to automate operations at 14 remote stands at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The airport, operated by Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE), was facing severe aircraft congestion at 14 remote stands due to limited apron space and difficult manual guiding conditions during peak hours. In an open bid, EAE decided to bring ADB on board to implement its Safedock advanced visual docking guidance systems (A-VDGS) to allow the possibility of safer and smoother operations within the apron area.
“We were very happy with this key implementation at Bole International Airport; it clearly shows the airports need to implement important efficiency gains with a focus on safety and faster turn-around times,” said Herring.
As part of the turnkey deployment, ADB provided the masts, cabling and installation of the A-VDGS. The company said that, together with the control system, the automated solution reduces congestion caused by aircraft waiting to pull into occupied or unstaffed gates and eliminates delays that occur when marshallers are not available.
“The project has now been finalised and we are discussing further extensions,” Herring reported.
Airport lighting systems are essential for the safety and security of passengers, cargo, and aircraft. Constantly evolving technology means that airports need to meet changing safety norms set by various authorities and, in Africa, this is even more pronounced when it comes to facilitating intercontinental traffic.
ADB was also chosen to provide a new airfield lighting system at Goma International Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Goma is strategically important because the airport is used by the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO), a United Nations peacekeeping mission for the region.
Goma is the largest airport in the DRC and it is operated by Régie de Voies Aériennes (RVA), the Congolese airport authority.
As part of the first phase of the project, ADB Safegate provided various solutions, such as airfield lighting systems, generators, floodlights, control systems, constant current regulators and commissioning services, to configure accuracy for installed systems.
Setting up of these systems has enabled night operations, which has increased throughput at the airport.
The second phase of the project is under way with the installation of a stop bar, utilising an individual lamp monitoring and control system (ILCMS) with airfield smart power (ASP) addressable airfield lighting technology.
“The introduction of the stop bar is to increase operational safety and efficiency by relieving congestion on the taxiway and reducing the risk of runway incursions, shortening taxi time and saving on fuel,” explained Herring.
The company has, in the past, been responsible for modernising operations at other airports in the DRC including Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kindu, Bunia, and Kisangani.
ADB has been putting much emphasis on its concept of the ‘intelligent airfield’ to transform airport operations in recent years. Herring said this ‘intelligence’ comes from the way operations are managed. “We see a strong need for intelligent airfields, which is great because it’s critical to make them safe and more efficient.”
ADB has been active in Ghana, too. The latest project involved upgrading the Tamale Airport with more efficient category II LED airfield ground lighting.
The airport was in dire need of an upgrade, as the existing narrow runway did not support night operations. “The upgrade will help accelerate growth and development of the region, setting it up as an economic hub,” said Herring. The Istanbul Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) operates the airport.
Airports around the world are currently upgrading to energy-efficient LED lighting systems to enhance conditions and save on operational costs. Thus, with the potential to improve visibility with energy savings and long life, industry reports are showing that airports throughout the world are transitioning to LED-based solutions at an increasing rate.
Today, airfield ground lighting has shifted from halogen to LED lights appearing on runways and taxiways and, increasingly, that’s happening across Africa.
For Tamale Airport, the turnkey project included an ASP individual lamp control and monitoring system, power distribution system, standby generators, floodlights and approach masts, as well as site management.
The airport authority wanted the airport to be ready to receive Boeing 747s operating Hajj pilgrimage flights to Mecca.
“We have a strong presence in Ghana, having already worked with GACL at Accra Kotoka International Airport, Kumasi Airport and Takoradi Airport. By equipping Tamale Airport with our airfield ground lighting, it will experience increased throughput, longer operational hours and, most importantly, night time operations,” explained Herring.
The market for commercial airport lighting is anticipated to expand at approximately 7% a year during the period from 2017 to 2022, according to industry estimates.
Considering that air transport is expected to grow significantly in Africa, investment into airfield technologies will seemingly be very necessary.
There are, of course, other solution providers. For instance, Cairo International Airport has selected OCEM Airfield Technology to supply and integrate advanced technology as part of a new runway lighting upgrade to LED lighting.
ATG Airports was also commissioned for the provision of airfield ground lighting at Moi International Airport, located on the outskirts of Mombasa in Kenya.

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