Forward-thinking Munich Airport adopts cutting-edge ADB SAFEGATE technologies for new apron

Munich Airport’s New Apron Module C 02.5, located south east of the airport area, provides 21 new stands. The project was completed in March 2021, with opening for full operation in April 2021. Frank Wunderlich, VP of Central and Eastern Europe, ADB SAFEGATE, explains Munich Airport’s approach as a technology leader in adopting the newest and best technologies for the new apron to Ross Falconer.

Work on Munich Airport’s New Apron Module C 02.5 commenced onsite in May 2019 with mobilisation of the project team. Installation schedules were planned, and the detailed scope defined in order to achieve the airport’s desired end-solutions. “The real installation works started around the beginning of 2020,” explains Frank Wunderlich, VP of Central and Eastern Europe, ADB SAFEGATE. “We successfully achieved the first milestone with the handover of the first stands in the northern part of the apron in November last year.”

The work for the sales team started at a much earlier stage. “We tackle such projects from a holistic angle, analysing and identifying the challenges of ground operations for the flow of aircraft, passengers, baggage and cargo to improve the total airport performance of the relevant customer.”

The project scope included the entire package for the electrical and IT infrastructure of the new apron:

  • Airfield Ground Lighting: 850 new LED light fixtures for taxiway centreline and lead-in lines. All lights are equipped with individual lamp control to allow routing and guidance of aircraft to their designated stand. The entire system is built according to the highest safety regulations and follows the SELV (safety extra low voltage) regulation (IEC 62870) that allows safe maintenance of the fixtures in the field.
  • Advanced Visual Docking and Guidance System (A-VDGS): 21 new Safedock units for safe and precise docking of aircraft at their stands, combined with individually-controlled lead-in lights that allow pilots to better identify the allocated stand. Extension of the SafeControl Apron Management System to allow efficient allocation of stands.
  • Apron lighting: of 35m high poles with a special lowering system. The latest energy-efficient LED lighting concept and a new control system.
  • 400 Hz power supply for aircraft with static converters.
  • 50 Hz power supply equipment for a new substation with medium-voltage and low-voltage switchgear.
  • Entire cabling network for all systems at the apron.
  • Installation of IT network and referring infrastructure.
  • Delivery and installation of charging stations for electric vehicles.

“All this needed to be implemented on a turnkey basis, including all interfaces between the new systems themselves and with the existing airside infrastructure,” says Wunderlich. “As not all products and systems are being produced in-house by ADB SAFEGATE, we have lined-up with various experienced and specialised partners for this challenge and integrated them within our project team.”

ADB SAFEGATE has a longstanding relationship with Munich Airport since its opening in 1992. Its understanding of the airport’s needs, therefore, allowed ADB SAFEGATE to offer the best possible solutions for seamless integration into the existing infrastructure.

“Knowing Munich Airport’s project culture from a variety of projects during the last 30 years has helped us to fully understand the expectations that the customer had for us,” Wunderlich explains. “Those expectations were very high and this was clear from the beginning of the project. You can only run such a project in an extremely structured way and with a very experienced and professional team on both sides. But making the project a success also means a close and silo-free coordination between all stakeholders and a trustful and open-minded atmosphere during the entire project duration. Finally – and this is sometimes forgotten nowadays – a good level of common sense and a direct communication line with the stakeholders can easily solve problems before they even occur. This was done by all stakeholders on this project and created a truly agile and collaborative culture.”

A high level of innovation

Many of the systems used for the new apron have a high level of innovation – from LED technology for both AGL and apron lighting, to new static converters for the 400 Hz power supply of aircraft and the special apron lighting masts with a lowering system.

“One of the innovative highlights, and a very important element for an increased level of safety for the maintenance personnel of Munich Airport, is the full implementation of SELV technology for the AGL system,” says Wunderlich. “SELV stands for safety extra low voltage and protects the electricians from electrical hazards when changing AGL fixtures in the field.”

ADB SAFEGATE achieved this by designing the AGL circuits according to the relevant IEC standard, and also by using its newest individual lamp control units equipped with SELV limiters that do not allow a voltage of more than 50 VAC at the light fixtures under all conditions.

“ADB SAFEGATE is a true thought-leader in this technology and Munich Airport is among the early adopters for implementing it in the field,” Wunderlich comments. “During the tender phase, we saw that Munich Airport had a very high demand in using the newest and best technologies for the new apron and our knowledge of the industry helped to choose the most appropriate solutions to satisfy the operational and technological needs for this project.”

Executing a complex project with no delays during COVID-19 pandemic

Naturally, there were challenges in delivering such a complex project, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key challenge from the beginning was the very tight time schedule.

“When the COVID pandemic started to hit Europe in March 2020, we needed to cope with a situation that we had neither experienced in one of our projects nor in life,” says Wunderlich. “We immediately coordinated our anti-COVID safety measures with all the other stakeholders on the project and closely monitored the development of the pandemic on a daily basis. By doing so we could continuously work onsite – there was not one day the site was closed for construction.”

Meanwhile, the reduced amount of traffic and ground movements made it possible for ADB SAFEGATE to increase installation efficiency in areas where it was necessary to connect with existing infrastructure at the live area of the airport. “Our team was clever and flexible enough to use this advantage to create time buffers as possible contingency for the further progress of the project towards the end,” Wunderlich explains. “The Munich Airport project team supported us in a very unbureaucratic and flexible way. The project stakeholders, such as the civil contractor, also showed a very high level of flexibility so that we could commonly achieve the overall goal – the finalisation of the project on time, in good quality, and to the satisfaction of the customer.”

Energy efficiency and shortened turnaround times

Many systems installed at the new apron focus on energy efficiency and shortening turnaround times, which results in reduced fuel and electrical energy consumption to lower CO2 emissions. One example is the implementation of special colour-coded triple-line taxiways in LED technology that allow parallel taxiing of narrow-body aircraft on the same taxiway.

Munich Airport’s ‘5-star airport’ mindset is very well-known by travellers who regularly rate it among the top airports in the world for its customer experience. This way of thinking is implemented across the entire airport, including the equipment used at the airside. “Munich Airport has always focused on technologies that guarantee the highest standards of safety, efficiency and reliability, and this mentality was proven to be right, seeing that the success of the airport has increased from year to year,” says Wunderlich.

Sustainability is key for new technologies. Many systems installed at the new apron focus on energy efficiency and shortening turnaround times, which results in reduced fuel and electrical energy consumption to lower CO2 emissions. One example is the implementation of special colour-coded triple-line taxiways in LED technology that allow parallel taxiing of narrow-body aircraft on the same taxiway. “The use of ADB SAFEGATE’s state-of-the-art advanced visual docking & guidance systems is also one key element for making the turnarounds much more efficient. By this, ADB SAFEGATE and Munich Airport also commonly contribute to the recently-unveiled flagship sustainability initiative of the European aviation sector: ‘Destination 2050 – A Route to Net Zero European Aviation’,” Wunderlich explains.

He adds that this is one of the biggest single projects of such a complexity that ADB SAFEGATE has implemented in Germany, underlining the company’s turnkey capability. “While being grateful that we could be part of this journey, I am extremely proud to be the chosen partner of Munich Airport and the trust put in our company to execute a project of this size in a short time. I am also proud of our project team onsite that did an outstanding job despite two COVID lockdowns, a very long and harsh winter during the final phase of the project, and the very challenging time schedule. It is great to have employees with a combination of longstanding experience in their field, a true passion for their work, and the right level of kerosene in their blood.”

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