Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Safety with Semmco
Article Type: Equipment From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 2.
Bespoke engine and cargo hold access solutions from Semmco are said to improve safety for aircraft engineers whilst improving their productivity when working at heights.
Specialist engineering company, Semmco, has recently worked with Virgin Atlantic Airways to design, manufacture and implement a fleet of bespoke access steps and platforms designed to give aircraft engineers at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports easy, safe and flexible access to engines and cargo holds and for general maintenance purposes.
Two sets of Semmco Cargo Bay Access Steps have been in use since January 2007 in Virgin's Gatwick hangar, predominantly for “A” checks on the 747 400s, with one set of steps used for accessing the front cargo bay, and the other for the rear. The adjustable height access steps, which also comprise a platform at the top which docks seamlessly with the opening to the cargo hold to give full fall from height protection, were designed in close consultation with Andy T. Currey, who oversees the tooling and access equipment operations planning for the airline.
Explaining the typical work undertaken using the cargo access solution he says “The Semmco steps and platform enable the engineers to safely access the cargo [freight] bay to inspect the complex system of pulleys, belts and wheels that move the freight around internally in LD3s/LD4s [containers]. Located within the forward freight bay are two fire extinguishers that weigh in excess of 65kg, so it was vitally important for us to have a safe and sufficiently large platform should these extinguishers need to be removed or replaced. Another key factor was having a working platform which is adjustable in height, as the height of the aircraft will differ according to how much fuel remains on board, it is not viable to have any kind of trip hazard, either a step up or down, when accessing the cargo bay. The lightweight aluminum structure means the access steps can be moved quickly and easily into place and the flexible height of the Semmco solution means the access steps can be used for other wide bodied aircraft such as the A340 300/600 and Boeing 747 and 777. This means that in the event of unscheduled aircraft arriving at the Gatwick hangar, routine inspections and servicing can be carried out as normal. This was recently the case when aircraft were re-routed from our Heathrow base due to a main gas leak we were able to safely carry out `turn- round' inspections as normal.”
The Semmco variable height engineers access steps, which came into service in Summer 2007, have been designed specifically to provide safe access and working conditions for maintenance tasks such as engine oil changes or complete engine changes on our fleet of 747s, A340 600s and 300s.
Two sets of steps are located at Heathrow, and another two at Gatwick, a strategic move that echoes Virgin's commitment to provide a consistent approach for safety and sharing best practice across all of its operations. Dependent on the amount of fuel being carried, engineers can be working at heights of up to 3 to 4m off the ground when reaching the main engine attachment bolts located inside the top of the cowling.
Andy Currey explains the value of the steps in terms of safety by saying “Once again, we needed something flexible in height and upon reaching the top of the steps the engineer becomes encased in a kind of `cage' which extends up by a further 2m to create a high, safe, working area. The engineer is protected by the open cowl on one side, and on the other side by the engine. The side railings can then be folded down to a height of 0.5m to enable him to carry out his work and also protect him once he starts to move away from the cowling.
Details available from: Tel:+44 (0)1483 237230, Fax:+44 (0)1483 237234.