Airlines look to tackle $10 billion ground risk threat

The world’s airlines have demanded a new approach to the use of ground handling equipment at the world’s airports after a new study has estimated that he annual cost of ground damage is set to hit $10 billion by 2035.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has issued a call for a transition to enhanced ground support equipment (Enhanced GSE) to improve safety and contain the cost of ground damage involving GSE. Enhanced GSE uses anti-collision and inching technology, improves vehicle control, and increases docking accuracy, all of which minimizes the risk of personnel injuries and damaging aircraft.

The route to successfully delivering the transition to Enhanced GSE is detailed in a new IATA study which estimates that the annual cost of ground damage could double to nearly $10 billion by 2035 unless preventive action is taken.

The figures on the costs of ground damage forecast are based on direct costs (including labour and material costs, temporary leasing costs, logistical expenses, and administrative costs) and indirect costs (lost revenue, crew and passenger repositioning costs, compensation costs for delayed services etc).

The study found:

  • most aircraft ground damage that occurs once the aircraft is stationary is caused by motorized GSE striking the fuselage of the aircraft
  • the widebody aircraft ground damage rate is ten times higher than narrowbody aircraft, but regional jets, turboprop, and narrow-body aircraft are 30% more prone to severe ground damage
  • belt-loaders, cargo-loaders, passenger stairs and passenger boarding bridges (PBB), cause 40% of total incidents (Source: IATA ground damage incident data base)
  • transitioning 75% of the global fleet of belt-loaders, cargo-loaders, passenger stairs and PBB to Enhanced GSE, would reduce the current expected ground damage cost per turn rate by 42% (IATA estimate).

“Transitioning to Enhanced GSE with anti-collision technology is a no-brainer. We have proven technology that can improve safety. And with the cost of ground damage growing across the industry there is a clear business case supporting early adoption. The challenge now is to put together a roadmap so that all stakeholders are aligned on a transition plan,” said Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president operations, safety and security.

Along with reducing the cost of ground damage, the transition to Enhanced GSE will also support the industry’s commitment to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 as most new equipment is electrically powered, according to the study.
“Most Enhanced GSE is electrically powered, making it cleaner and more energy efficient. While the main focus of aviation’s decarbonization efforts is on how we power aircraft, what happens on the ground cannot be ignored. The transition to Enhanced GSE will contribute to our industry’s top priorities of safety and sustainability,” said Careen.