PRM market: Providing VIP treatment

GSE Airports Safety Reports
Handling passengers of reduced mobility requires care due to their needs caused by age or disability.

Demand has proven robust for Denge, which was able to remain busy during the pandemic with ongoing business from the previous year, said Sales Director Gul Denge. In the medical lift sector, Denge has the self-propelled SD-5084, the truck-mounted MD-5084 and the towable TD-5400.

Products serving the PRM market need to be practical, comfortable and uncomplicated because the types of customers who need the service either require medical support or are using the service due to age or physical condition.

Denge said: “Our main goal is to transport this passenger in the most comfortable and smooth way, at the appropriate room temperature and with visually pleasing interior decoration details, and to produce a product that can safely complete the transfer process, which may be troublesome due to health or age.”

An adaptable and reliable product are the main priorities for the operator, with Denge adding that the company’s goal is to produce products that can be easily adapted for operators, produced in compliance with CE and IATA norms, is easy to operate and is reliable so it does not need to go into the workshop except for routine maintenance.

She said: “Our products are produced by considering the human factor. A detail that is incomprehensible to the passenger can be a source of suffering for the operator using the product, or it can tire the maintenance staff in the workshop.”

Denge’s products are designed to be maintained and repaired with local resources, and working with global brands means few components are only available through Denge.

Denge said: “The operator’s enjoyment of driving and operating and taking good care of the product will turn that short trip into a positive experience for the passenger. This is our belief and for this reason, our products are operator friendly.”

As a boutique manufacturer, Denge does not manufacture its products then sell them. Instead, it has the capacity to adapt to customer requirements.

“We are open to any good development, including our mass-produced products. Although we are not a mass producer, we have received early orders for the first time to fill the production schedule of the next two years,” she said.

The market has changed from companies making purchases depending on the season and quick purchases based on agreements they will make.

She said: “Now, the desire of the same companies to place their more visionary and long-term investments on orders much earlier may partly indicate that the market will grow, and that may also indicate contraction in supply lines will continue.”

Serving different markets

To serve different markets, Mallaghan has two different models for the PRM market. Its model based on a commercial truck chassis is popular at larger, busy airports and the one based on a self-propelled chassis with a low sill height is popular for regional aircraft.

Sales Director Owen McKenna, said: “Mallaghan has experienced a rapid recovery across all product lines throughout 2022 and into 2023, this also has been on our PRM ranges of self-propelled and our truck mounted units.”

When designing a PRM Medical Lift, McKenna said that aircraft heights and aircraft capability, interior design and controlled approach systems for aircraft safety are the main design considerations.

Mallaghan offers customers customisation, which typically involves types of air conditioning, interior layout, wheelchairs, stretchers, seating and music.

The market never stands still so Mallaghan is always looking at how to develop its products for the future.

McKenna said that Mallaghan’s products are being developed with sustainable drive trains such as electric power and with innovative safety systems.

Electric power


AvioGei Airport Equipment’s Thunderlift vehicles are proving popular, with the smaller 4000 and the larger 6000 serving every aircraft on the market today. The Thunderlift comes with electric, hydrogen or diesel powertrains, meaning it can operate in all parts of the world.

CEO Andrea Cesarini said: “All our vehicles have an onboard charger easing the introduction of the unit to any airport since it won’t need any special work or area to place an external charger. Aviogei’s No Touch Policy comes standard in all vehicles and together with 360 degree views and all other safety systems installed in the vehicle allows it to have a smooth operation at all times and in all different types of weather conditions.”

There is still demand for diesel-powered units but most customers are going electric. Cesarini said: “We can say electric today is the key to a profitable operation, the new technologies we apply to our units have proven to be efficient and reduce costs for any type of operation of our units. We see some of them running for more than 15 hours per day without stopping and most importantly, is always available.”

For the passenger, the PRM vehicle needs to be smooth and comfortable, and for the operator, it needs to be easy to use, so Aviogei has dedicated staff in its engineering department to focus on designing, building and evaluating new parts to make sure the vehicle is suitable for both passengers and operators.

He said: “One of our main concerns when installing new upgrades is to keep the same type of operation, so that once one operator has completed the training in one of our units, all they will need in the future to operate a new vehicle is a short familiarisation procedure since the operator cockpit is similar throughout the different versions and the operation functions follow the same logic across all of our equipment.”

Aviogei is ahead of its time and always looking to the future, said Cesarini, who believes that hydrogen is a feasible alternative to electric.

He said: “We already have some units running full hydrogen, some tests have been already completed and now we are looking forward to seeing the first commercial units leaving the factory in the near future.”


Designed with experts


To make sure its products are suitable for passengers with disabilities and mobility issues, Aviramp works alongside disability experts to make its products the best they can be. A safe, easy and dignified boarding experience is the main consideration, said Terri Smart-Jewkes, Global Sales & Marketing Director, before explaining: “Our patented 360 degree switchback design with its gradual 7.5 sloping gradients ensures an easy boarding and deplaning however extreme the disability.”

Its patented 360 degree switchback design is what makes Aviramp’s product unique. Smart-Jewkes said: “We also provide a standard yet unique anti-slip flooring alongside a raft of customisable optional extras. Our equipment is an easy one person operation, and can be used with a T bar or via remote control.”

Aviramp’s boarding ramps and bridges serve all markets and aircraft types, making them versatile, said Smart-Jewkes. Customisation means that the equipment can work at both regional and international airports in any weather conditions.

Demand is strong so Aviramp is scaling up in preparation for many orders, which are coming in quickly.

Smart-Jewkes said: “We are really busy with various pitches and discussions as we work with operations teams to assess their needs, and through collaboration we often come up with an effective approach in terms of how they might deploy Aviramp in place of ambulift for PRMs, alongside using the kit for general boarding and deplaning instead of steps or alongside them.”

An ageing population means that the industry will have to cater for an increasing number of passengers with mobility issues or disabilities, so having the right equipment is essential.

She added: “Independent trials revealed Aviramp is 30% faster than other GSE, and that it encourages more PRMs to become assist only rather than lift on passengers. So it delivers greater independence and dignity for the PRM.”

This article was published in the June 2023 issue of Ground Handling International, click here to read the digital edition and click here to subscribe.

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