HONG KONG Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) is to establish a new bespoke Aero Engine Handling Centre (AEHC) to attract more of that type of traffic to and through the Chinese hub airport, writes Thelma Etim.

The region is one of only two locations in Asia which have certified repair, modification and overhaul facilities for Rolls-Royce Trent engines which are utilised on A330s, A340s, A350s and A380s, as well as B777s and the B787 Dreamliner.

The specialist handling of aero engines is already a major part of Hactl’s business portfolio, partly due to the company’s experience in handling all types of freighter aircraft.

For example, the entity is aware that the An-124 freighter is increasingly featuring in the transportation of aero engines, as its giant main-deck cargo compartment can simultaneously carry up to five of the largest engines, in comparison with B747 and B777 freighters which can carry a maximum of only three partially dismantled aircraft powerplants.

The new facility will complement the ground handler’s existing capability to process an average of two aircraft engines a day, which often weigh more than eight tonnes each and can be valued at more than US$20million.

Hactl has installed an additional, dedicated outsize weighing scale to facilitate checking such shipment weights, as well as new handling aero engine procedures, including the imposition of a five kph towing speed limit.

As a result of this move, all local engine ground movements will now take place in the company of a convoy of front and back pilot cars on prescribed routes with clearly marked height restrictions to prevent possible collisions with overhead obstacles. A new fast-track route has been introduced to reduce towing distances and only the most experienced of Hactl’s tractor drivers will be entrusted with towing the engines.

The ground handler is now also engaged in training additional staff in the special disciplines required for the handling of this highly valuable outsize cargo with a view to creating a totally dedicated aero engine handling crew.

Denis Kiselev, aerospace and MRO manager for Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group – the world’s largest operator of An-124 freighters – insists: “Volga-Dnepr Group has extensive experience and competence in aero engine transportation.

“We are pleased to see that a long-standing partner such as Hactl is among those forward-thinking companies who understand the importance of developing aero engine handling, have acted on their own initiative to anticipate future customer needs, and are investing in ‘up-scaling’ and upgrading their facilities. Reliable partnerships, such as that which we have with Hactl, will boost our aero engine transportation business.”

Paul Cheng, general manager of service delivery at Hactl, points out: “Aero engines are very large and very heavy, but they are also delicate and among the most valuable commodities we process. We are upgrading all aspects of our handling to ensure we continue to provide the ultimate in efficient and safe handling, while paving the way for potential future growth,” he adds.

“By enhancing Hactl’s capabilities for handling this highly-specialised and challenging cargo, we aim to enhance Hong Kong’s reputation as an important link in the global aero engine maintenance and repair network. This should attract additional aero engine business to Hong Kong and Hactl, and will benefit our airport community, our airline customers and service partners,” he insists.

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