The doors recently closed at the 53rdInternational Paris Airshow, and the Powervamp Airshow team reflected on what has been one of their most challenging airshows to date. Extreme weather, constant aircraft movements and the long hours associated with the set-up, support and breakdown of the worlds oldest airshow required the team to dig deep physically, and mentally, to allow them to deliver the expected quality service.
“…the logistics for getting the equipment and staff safely to the airshow was a massive undertaking…”
However, nothing had been left to chance in the run up to the airshow. Planning started in mid-2018 with the first wave of meetings and email correspondence to understand which airframe manufacturers, such as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Cessna, Gulfstream and Pilatus to name but a few, were proposing to attend the 2019 airshow. Although the list was always expected to be fluid with many changes likely to occur, it allowed the various organisations associated with the static airpark to start their initial planning.
Powervamp operated in conjunction with the appointed airshow ground handling organisation, Worldwide Flight Services, (WFS). WFS work with over 270 major airlines and airports internationally to process airline cargo, facilitate aircraft arrivals and departures as well as offering a full range of professional ramp services.
Powervamp was one of five ALVEST companies that contributed to the environmentally friendly ‘green’ static airpark
Powervamp also worked alongside a number of its sister companies, (TLD, AES, SAS and LEBRUN) to provide, and support, the huge amount of ground support equipment, (GSE), that was provided for the aircraft.
Equipment consisted of ground power units (GPUs) including 90kVA and 45 kVA 400Hz frequency converters, 28V DC power supplies as well as air-conditioning, air-stairs, tow tractors and high pressure cooling.
“…the International Paris Airshow took its environmental responsibilities very seriously this year…”
As the Powervamp airshow GSE alone required two articulated lorries and a large number of trained engineers flying and driving to Paris at different times – the logistics alone for getting the equipment and staff safely to the airshow was a massive undertaking for the airshow administrative department.
Once the GSE arrived on site after its two day transit, it was physically inspected and powered up to ensure it was 100% operational after its journey, before being re-located to the allocated compound area and ready to roll out once the various chalets and static areas were completed.
The articulated lorries were carefully unloaded before the GPUs were checked after their long journey.
The International Paris Airshow took its environmental responsibilities very seriously this year. The organisers wanted to promote the use of electrical ground power, wherever possible, over diesel powered equipment that is generally noisy, smelly, expensive and by running for many hours at a time, highly damaging to the environment through its carbon emissions. This is where Powervamp GPUs were a perfect fit with their silent, non-polluting, ‘green’ alternative to the more traditional diesel GPU.
Overall set-up took seven days as aircraft arrived daily, with many more aircraft movements occurring as the airframe manufacturers repositioned their latest, or most high profile, aircraft to show off to their customers, the worlds aviation media as well as the general public.
“…even with the imminent countdown, aircraft were still being repositioned…”
As the aircraft arrived, the Powervamp GPUs were called upon immediately to power the avionics cockpit suite as well as lighting and other electrical systems due to the frowned upon practice of aircraft running their own auxiliary power unit, (APU), to provide the hotel load power whilst the aircraft awaited for its GPU.
As the opening day loomed ever closer, the days became longer as the team manoeuvred GSE as aircraft were continuously relocated to offer their best angle or were moved out daily to practice in the flying display.
Aircraft are constantly moved around during the set-up and show days meaning the PV staff are always on standby
With the aircraft eventually in place and the large amount of GSE in situ under wings or by the side of the fuselage of the aircraft, the last Sunday before the airshow opened is normally a 10 – 15hr day spent testing, running up, and tweaking the equipment to ensure all was ready for the following morning. However, even with the imminent countdown, aircraft were still being repositioned – and what could be the smallest of relocations on a static pitch could very easily result in an additional requirement of 100m of cable due to the re-routing around walkways, stairs and chalets.
Its these type of situations where the experience of the airshow team comes into play as they have to juggle with resource, manage stock, power drops, weather considerations, power calculations and customer expectations… whilst still keeping a cool head!
“…its the commitment to carrying backup equipment that gives organisers and exhibitors peace of mind…”
Monday, the opening day of the 53rdInternational Paris Airshow, dictated a very early start for the team who had to arrive on site ahead of the expected heavy traffic congestion. With the team on the static display, their first job was to switch on the ground power units and power up the air-coolers in anticipation of the very high temperatures.
Over the course of the week a number of requests for additional air coolers were received as temperatures crept up to 36 degrees centigrade in the mid-afternoon sun – luckily this had also been anticipated and the team could satisfy these orders from their spare stock.
The Airshow staff must be able to operate individually as well as working as part of a team
During the week, the team got into a routine of arriving early, switching on all equipment before returning to base camp for the vast majority of the day to stay out of the sun. Teams took turns to parol the long static display checking in with exhibitors to ensure all was well.
On the highly unusual occasion that equipment needs to be swapped out, the Powervamp Airshow team have a large inventory of spare equipment that can be pushed into place in a matter of minutes with only the smallest of disruption to the customer. Its the commitment to carrying backup equipment for these unusual ‘just in case’ type situations that gives the International Paris Airshow organisers and exhibitors the peace of mind whilst working with Powervamp.
“…the airshow team took advantage of the downtime during the public days…”
As the airshow headed towards the end of the ‘trade’ days, the pressure on the Powervamp airshow team began to diminish as certain large airframe manufacturers departed. With deals finalised, contracts signed and interviews given – a number of aircraft are required to return to their scheduled flights to earn their keep.
The departing aircraft also allows the team to recover more equipment from the static airpark each night, which in turn allows them to be increasingly more prepared for when the articulated lorries return to collect the equipment.
As the aircraft depart it allows the team to recover the GPUs back to base in anticipation of breakdown
Once the weekend arrived, and the doors opened for the public days, the sea of sharp suits and briefcases during the trade days are replaced with brightly coloured shorts and baseball caps as families made their way on the static display for the two ‘public’ days. The majority of the chalets are now locked down, as are a large number of aircraft, meaning even more of the GSE equipment can be pulled back to the Powervamp base.
“…it was only then that thoughts turned towards the preparation for the next airshow…”
The airshow team took advantage of the downtime during the public days, and set about the daunting task of sorting out the equipment in anticipation of the following Sunday night and Monday morning breakdown.
Sunday afternoon saw the airshow finally come its doors, and the team embarked on a long night as they retrieved the final converters, power supplies, coolers and long cable lengths and start to palletise the equipment in anticipation of the collection. The allocated forklift operated constantly as pallets were relocated and large cable boxes were filled and stacked, before moved to the collection point.
Last men standing – the remaining members of the airshow team ready to head back to the UK after breakdown
Monday finally arrived and the wait for the drivers to obtain the correct documentation before being allowed to drive to the collection point took many hours due to the sizeable traffic queues whilst contractors and haulage companies jostled to get on the main static display.
Once the Powervamp articulated lorries got to site, the reloading was a fairly straight forward business, thanks to the experience of the team and the skills of the forklift operator. By 6pm both lorries were on their way back to the UK where the kit will be unpacked, inspected and stored for the next airshow.
The team returned to the hotel for one last night, before preparing for the long journey home the following day, and it was only then that thoughts turned towards the preparation for the next airshow…..✈️
For more information on Powervamp Aviation Airshow Services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1934 643000.