If you can handle the A340-600, the 777 or the 747, then you can handle the A380 from the GSE side," says Bernd Scholz, senior manager-equipment for Fraport, the management company for Frankfurt International Airport. That in a nutshell describes the attitude of many airport officials preparing for the arrival of the first A380 that took to the skies for the first time on a sunny April day in Toulouse. The only two pieces of equipment that need to be redesigned to accommodate the aircraft are an upper-deck catering unit to reach the second level and high-powered tow tractors with the muscle to move the behemoth down a taxiway. Seven manufacturers are offering towbar and towbarless tractorsmany already in operationthat can handle the A380. They are Douglas, Goldhofer, TLD, Schopf, Koegel Kamag, FMC and Bliss Fox. The tractors also are compatible with existing widebody aircraft. A tow tractor for the A380 must operate at 20 mph and produce about 1,200 hp. While the main deck is compatible with existing equipment, the upper deck will require service from a catering truck able to extend 8 m. above ground level, which is about 3 m. higher than a 747. "Catering is the absolute bottleneck," says Scholz. Prototypes are available for this type of vehicle from nine manufacturers: Inutsuka, FFG, Mallaghan, Smith TE, CATCON, HTR, Saxon, Tesco and Beilhack. These trucks also are compatible with widebodies. "We advise using an upper-deck catering vehicle," declared Richard Carcaillet, Airbus director-A380 product marketing, at a meeting in Frankfurt the day after the first flight of the aircraft. "All the equipment could serve other aircraft." Airbus has worked diligently with airports and GSE providers over the past several years in an effort to ensure that the overall aircraft design will be relatively compatible with existing infrastructure. The manufacturer even has developed a computer program that will take the dimensions of existing pieces of GSE and determine compatibility with the A380. Scholz says a concern was noted early in the design stages that GPU servicing points might not be accessible from the ground. Members of the working group convinced Airbus "to change some bells and whistles" and the problem was solved (see related chart), bringing the service points more in line with a 747, he says. There is grand talk among the prospective operators of the new aircraft about lounges with showers on the upper deck, individual cabins complete with butler service, double beds, bars or workout rooms. Such oneupmanship is standard procedure for an airplane that will be considered the flagship of an international carrier. But thus far the true configurations and cabin service options are being held close to the vest by all future operators, making it somewhat of a challenge for ground service people to plan for all contingencies and pinpoint all of the service needs. For example, does the carrier intend to have a full galley on the upper deck or to use an onboard lift to haul food from the main deck? Will cleaning crews need to access the aircraft from the lower deck and use the interior stairwell to haul cleaning equipment up and trash back down? The answer to these questions could provide more guidance about airport GSE as to the amount and type of equipment required. Some airports, such as Dubai, are well on their way to obtaining the needed equipment, while otherslike Frankfurtcontinue to test GSE. Rimzie Ismail, manager-marketing and business development for Dept. of Civil Aviation Dubai, says the airport is investing in five high-loaders that can be elevated to 8.1 m. with the ability to move sideways and over the wing. The equipment is undergoing simulator testing and she expects a decision to be made by year end. The airport also is investing in special hydrants and fueling equipment. The A380 can be configured for about 500 seats with two or three classes of service, or up to 850 seats in a single-class layout. Airbus estimates that the aircraft provides 35% more capacity than its closest competitor. That means planning and delivering catering, cleaning and servicing, and loading and unloading baggage for a high volume of passengers. But airport officials, who literally have been planning for years, believe they will be up to the challenge. The overall design, balance and configuration of the doors are geared for a 90-min. turnaround using only two bridges, according to Airbus officials. "It doesn't require much more than a 747. We're not recommending anything more than two bridges," Carcaillet tells AE&T. "You don't need three, four or five bridges to board the A380. This is a legend." Still, he concedes that some carriers will opt for direct access to the upper deck if only as a way of "product differentiation." There are companies that are prepared to provide upper-deck boarding systems and some airports continue to do comparison shopping. FMC Technologies is developing an upper-deck boarding bridge that is in the testing phase at company headquarters in Ogden, Utah. Engineering Manager Steve Nestel says FMC has built a mockup of the upper deck of an A380 in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the UD boarding bridge. The mockup also can be used as a training device for bridge operators. The bridges can be adapted to serve both widebody and narrowbody aircraft, he says. Alex Pfurr, director, ThyssenKrupp Airport Systems SA, says that company offers a boarding system that can incorporate an escalator into a boarding bridge. "Customization is important. You need to access the rear doors and to speed up the [boarding] process," he notes. Fraport is testing a ThyssenKrupp boarding bridge that features an automated docking device developed by Indal Technologies. The automated system takes out the "human factor" and enables the bridge to connect to the aircraft via a system of laser-guided lights and cameras that steer it into place at the aircraft door. "The automated docking and retraction improves ontime arrivals and departures," says Paul Upp, director-sales and marketing for Indal. "The smoother, consistent operation extends the life of the bridge, reduces damage and labor costs." Carcaillet believes that by the time the first A380 is placed into service, everything will be in place for operations. "Airports will be ready when they need to be ready. It is a business plan, like any other investment." The A380 marks a new age in air travel that is likely to spark fierce competition among the leading airports of Europe, says Wilhelm Bender, chairman of the executive board of Fraport AG, the company that operates Frankfurt International Airport. Bender was a keynote speaker at a recent conference aptly titled "Welcoming the A380" held in Frankfurt. Lufthansa, which is based at Frankfurt, has firm orders for 15 A380s with the first delivery scheduled for 2007. In preparation for that first flight, a new A380 maintenance facility to be operated by Lufthansa Technik is planned for the airport. The current runway system meets standards for the aircraft but apron and ramp areas will require new markings. "To cut costs, the members of the top three alliances will redirect the bulk of their long-haul transfer traffic into a handful of megahubs, sidelining many of today's secondary hubs," says Bender. "The trend will be accelerated by open skies, deregulation, mergers and the introduction of megaplanes such as the A380, which only the largest hubs with significant feeder capacity will be equipped to handle." He says the competition will be "most noticeable" in Europe with the Star Alliance and Lufthansa focused on Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich; Air France and KLM/SkyTeam focused on Paris Charles De Gaulle and Amsterdam, and British Airways/oneworld focused on London Heathrow. The only two pieces of equipment that need to be redesigned to accommodate the aircraft are an upper-deck catering unit to reach the second level and high-powered tow tractors with the muscle to move the behemoth down a taxiway. Seven manufacturers are offering towbar and towbarless tractorsmany already in operationthat can handle the A380. They are Douglas, Goldhofer, TLD, Schopf, Koegel Kamag, FMC and Bliss Fox. The tractors also are compatible with existing widebody aircraft. A tow tractor for the A380 must operate at 20 mph and produce about 1,200 hp. While the main deck is compatible with existing equipment, the upper deck will require service from a catering truck able to extend 8 m. above ground level, which is about 3 m. higher than a 747. "Catering is the absolute bottleneck," says Scholz. Prototypes are available for this type of vehicle from nine manufacturers: Inutsuka, FFG, Mallaghan, Smith TE, CATCON, HTR, Saxon, Tesco and Beilhack. These trucks also are compatible with widebodies. "We advise using an upper-deck catering vehicle," declared Richard Carcaillet, Airbus director-A380 product marketing, at a meeting in Frankfurt the day after the first flight of the aircraft. "All the equipment could serve other aircraft." Airbus has worked diligently with airports and GSE providers over the past several years in an effort to ensure that the overall aircraft design will be relatively compatible with existing infrastructure. The manufacturer even has developed a computer program that will take the dimensions of existing pieces of GSE and determine compatibility with the A380. Scholz says a concern was noted early in the design stages that GPU servicing points might not be accessible from the ground. Members of the working group convinced Airbus "to change some bells and whistles" and the problem was solved (see related chart), bringing the service points more in line with a 747, he says. There is grand talk among the prospective operators of the new aircraft about lounges with showers on the upper deck, individual cabins complete with butler service, double beds, bars or workout rooms. Such one-upmanship is standard procedure for an airplane that will be considered the flagship of an international carrier. But thus far the true configurations and cabin service options are being held close to the vest by all future operators, making it somewhat of a challenge for ground service people to plan for all contingencies and pinpoint all of the service needs. For example, does the carrier intend to have a full galley on the upper deck or to use an onboard lift to haul food from the main deck? Will cleaning crews need to access the aircraft from the lower deck and use the interior stairwell to haul cleaning equipment up and trash back down? The answer to these questions could provide more guidance about airport GSE as to the amount and type of equipment required. Some airports, such as Dubai, are well on their way to obtaining the needed equipment, while otherslike Frankfurtcontinue to test GSE. Rimzie Ismail, manager-marketing and business development for Dept. of Civil Aviation Dubai, says the airport is investing in five high-loaders that can be elevated to 8.1 m. with the ability to move sideways and over the wing. The equipment is undergoing simulator testing and she expects a decision to be made by year end. The airport also is investing in special hydrants and fueling equipment. The A380 can be configured for about 500 seats with two or three classes of service, or up to 850 seats in a single-class layout. Airbus estimates that the aircraft provides 35% more capacity than its closest competitor. That means planning and delivering catering, cleaning and servicing, and loading and unloading baggage for a high volume of passengers. But airport officials, who literally have been planning for years, believe they will be up to the challenge. The overall design, balance and configuration of the doors are geared for a 90-min. turnaround using only two bridges, according to Airbus officials. "It doesn't require much more than a 747. We're not recommending anything more than two bridges," Carcaillet tells AE&T. "You don't need three, four or five bridges to board the A380. This is a legend." Still, he concedes that some carriers will opt for direct access to the upper deck if only as a way of "product differentiation." There are companies that are prepared to provide upper-deck boarding systems and some airports continue to do comparison shopping. FMC Technologies is developing an upper-deck boarding bridge that is in the testing phase at company headquarters in Ogden, Utah. Engineering Manager Steve Nestel says FMC has built a mockup of the upper deck of an A380 in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the UD boarding bridge. The mockup also can be used as a training device for bridge operators. The bridges can be adapted to serve both widebody and narrowbody aircraft, he says. Alex Pfurr, director, ThyssenKrupp Airport Systems SA, says that company offers a boarding system that can incorporate an escalator into a boarding bridge. "Customization is important. You need to access the rear doors and to speed up the [boarding] process," he notes. Fraport is testing a ThyssenKrupp boarding bridge that features an automated docking device developed by Indal Technologies. The automated system takes out the "human factor" and enables the bridge to connect to the aircraft via a system of laser-guided lights and cameras that steer it into place at the aircraft door. "The automated docking and retraction improves ontime arrivals and departures," says Paul Upp, director-sales and marketing for Indal. "The smoother, consistent operation extends the life of the bridge, reduces damage and labor costs." Carcaillet believes that by the time the first A380 is placed into service, everything will be in place for operations. "Airports will be ready when they need to be ready. It is a business plan, like any other investment."

A380 MAY SPARK FIERCE COMPETITION IN EUROPE

The A380 marks a new age in air travel that is likely to spark fierce competition among the leading airports of Europe, says Wilhelm Bender, chairman of the executive board of Fraport AG, the company that operates Frankfurt International Airport. Bender was a keynote speaker at a recent conference aptly titled "Welcoming the A380" held in Frankfurt. Lufthansa, which is based at Frankfurt, has firm orders for 15 A380s with the first delivery scheduled for 2007. In preparation for that first flight, a new A380 maintenance facility to be operated by Lufthansa Technik is planned for the airport. The current runway system meets standards for the aircraft but apron and ramp areas will require new markings. "To cut costs, the members of the top three alliances will redirect the bulk of their long-haul transfer traffic into a handful of megahubs, sidelining many of today's secondary hubs," says Bender. "The trend will be accelerated by open skies, deregulation, mergers and the introduction of megaplanes such as the A380, which only the largest hubs with significant feeder capacity will be equipped to handle." He says the competition will be "most noticeable" in Europe with the Star Alliance and Lufthansa focused on Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich; Air France and KLM/SkyTeam focused on Paris Charles De Gaulle and Amsterdam, and British Airways/oneworld focused on London Heathrow.