As the demand for air cargo continues to soar as a result of the pandemic in line with commercial passenger traffic significantly declining, many aircraft carriers have been left looking to convert their fleet in favour of cargo solutions.

But with safety remaining as top priority when converting aircrafts, access equipment specialist ZARGES is supporting global operators like Airbus by supplying systems which will help them to carry out essential maintenance.

ZARGES’ extensive aviation offering

Converting planes for cargo solutions requires extensive modification work, which can only be carried out by specialists well-versed in the field of aircraft conversion.

With the Airbus A330 the latest in a long list of aircrafts chosen to be converted from a passenger plane into a freighter, maintenance and repair works must commence to ensure the model is suitable for the job. This includes the removal of seats and in-flight entertainment systems in favour of cargo pallets and additional safety equipment.

ZARGES demonstrates what safe and efficient access can look like for the conversion of Airbus machines, offering a diverse range of maintenance stairs, refuelling equipment and docking systems, all of which can be used for maintenance repair, engineering purposes and overhaul (MRO).

Precise docking system by ZARGES

Besides standard solutions, ZARGES also offers flexible modular systems for aircraft maintenance that can be designed and configured to suit the specifications of each customer – with the ability to optimally fit the contour of various aircraft models.

Due to the large number of different aircraft types – and thus individualities of the fuselage designs – special docking systems are required to bring the assembly personnel safely and quickly to the machines.

ZARGES docking systems are suitable for multi or single aircraft types, with optimum fit to specific components such as engines and tail shape. Suitable for wide-ranging applications, there is a solution on offer to suit every part of the aircraft from the nose to the tail and everywhere in between, including fuselage, engine and wing docks.

These particular modular systems stand out with their ease of assembly, flexible combination options and reliable aircraft access. It is therefore no surprise these customised docking systems have been chosen to supply Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW) which is a German manufacturer of flat lightweight components for all Airbus models, maintenance and repair work, engineering services, and conversion of passenger jets into freighters.

The preparation for a new conversion concept for the Airbus A330 began with a long lead time of up to five years. At this point, it was already clear that an assembly line concept should be implemented. From the outset, the decision was made that the solution should be highly versatile and should not only provide ideal conditions for structural work but also facilitate the tasks of other technical crews such as electricians and mechanics.

During the search for a solution at the start of the project, it became obvious there were no systems available on the market that were immediately suitable. Therefore, EFW approached potential partners to work on a solution together, and eventually chose ZARGES because of its broad expertise and experience in the aviation sector.

Andreas Kern, Head of Metal, Surface Treatment & Tool Services at EFW, said: ‘’In the past, we used scaffolding solutions that were customised to each type of aircraft, but the ZARGES docking system has enabled us to be much more flexible and to react accordingly to new conversion work.’’

“We were especially impressed by how close the designers at ZARGES work with their customers when developing solutions as well as by the fact that all our needs were addressed during planning.”

Joint development effort from the very beginning

When discussing the partnership, Martina Moritz, ZARGES Product Manager for Work and Maintenance Platforms, said: ‘’Together, we have developed and implemented a docking system that increases the efficiency of aircraft conversion and forms the basis for future expansion to other aircraft models thanks to the system’s flexibility.”

The ZARGES docking system that’s been custom made for EFW has the following distinctive features: ease of assembly and disassembly, flexible modules that can be combined as required as well as safe state-of-the-art access for workers. The modules can also be transported quickly using existing cranes in the hangar, thus allowing them to be moved from one aircraft to another without first having to undock an aircraft.

Prior to full production, ZARGES first created a prototype of the docking system at the request of EFW. The aim was to let the fitters try out the solution and evaluate its usability. After this trial, the aircraft maker was more than convinced by the docking system.

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