Hong Kong’s largest independent handler, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl), is making a bid to increase Hong Kong’s involvement in the movement of aero engines through the establishment of a new Aero Engine Handling Centre (AEHC).
Hong Kong is one of only two locations in Asia which have certified repair, modification and overhaul facilities for Rolls-Royce Trent engines, used in the Airbus A330, A340, A350 and A380, as well as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
Hactl believes that, with enhanced facilities and streamlined procedures, it can help to attract more aero engine traffic to and through Hong Kong. Aero engine handling is already big business for Hactl: it currently handles an average of two units per day. The new facility complements Hactl’s existing ability to process aircraft engines, which often weigh over 8 tonnes and are frequently valued at over USD20 million.
Hactl has installed an additional, dedicated outsize weigh-scale to facilitate double-checking of shipment weights. Meanwhile, enhanced aero engine handling procedures have been drawn up, including the imposition of a 5kph towing speed limit. All engine ground movements will now take place in convoy with pilot cars front and back. A new, fast-track route has been introduced to reduce towing distances, clearly marked with height restrictions to prevent collision with overhead obstacles. Only the most experienced of Hactl’s tractor drivers will be entrusted with the towing of aero engines.
Hactl is training additional staff in the special disciplines surrounding the handling of this valuable, delicate cargo, and is forming a dedicated aero engine handling team. Hactl’s proven ability to handle freighters of all kinds gives it a strong advantage in dealing with this specialised commodity. The renowned Antonov AN-124 freighter is featuring increasingly in the transport of aero engines, as its giant maindeck cargo compartment can carry up to 5 of the largest engines simultaneously, compared to the more common B747 and B777 freighters which can only carry three engines, and require them to be partially dismantled.
Denis Kiselev, aerospace and MRO manager for Volga-Dnepr Group, which is the largest operator of the AN-124, says: “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 upscaling and upgrading their facilities. Reliable partnerships such as that we have with Hactl, will boost our aero engine transportation business.”
Says Paul Cheng, Hactl general manager – service delivery: “Aero engines are very large and heavy, but 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 concludes: “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 benefit our airport community, airline customers and service partners.”