In the process of testing the first conceptual unit of the Belt Loader Extension Ramp, we discovered that there are many other advantages to utilizing such a device. These advantages can save airlines tens of thousands of dollars in increased productivity and safer loading practices that will decrease the damage caused by conventional loading methods as well as make the loading process faster and more efficient.
Here are some examples of where the savings will come by using the Belt Loader Extension Ramp:
1. Fewer Worker's Compensation claims should be filed as personnel are no longer required to reach out for the cargo as well as keeping hands and loose clothing items away from the moving belt. In discussing problems with loading cargo personnel, they commonly complain about the back pain they endure after loading aircraft.
In one instance last year, a handler had a heavier cargo item that he was attempting to transfer from the belt into the aircraft. This was to save the item from striking the entry of the airplane which would have caused damage to the aircraft as the packaging was made of wood. This, along with the fact that it was small and weighed right at 100#, the item very well could caused this problem. In his attempt to manually transfer the item while standing on the ground next to the aircraft, the item slipped out of his hands and landed on his foot. This summarily broke the majority of the bones in the foot the item landed on. This incident cost this particular company a great deal of money and the 21 year old man now lives with an injury that will give him problems for the rest of his life.
If the Belt Loader Extension Ramp was being utilized, the item would simply have been gently pushed into the aircraft and no such problem would have occurred.
(In many states, Worker's Compensation Bureaus will actually pay the company up to $6,000 to purchase such units that companies can show will save on claims)
2. A common problem with using belt loaders is the inadvertent contact of the belt loader with the aircraft. In an effort to minimize the gap in between the aircraft and the belt loader, personnel often attempt to put the belt loader closer to the aircraft than companies allow. In doing this, the aircraft is all too often hit, causing damage, delays and at a large cost to the airline. At times, enough damage occurs that aircraft must be ferried home empty in order to repair the damage. This again is a very large, unnecessary expense.
A friend of mine is a Captain on a 757 for an airline in the U.S. He has told me about one story in particular where a belt loader struck an aircraft that was currently in Europe. The aircraft had to be ferried to Chicago for repairs. The lost revenue for that flight, as well as the cost to transport a 757 home empty, would have outfitted the entire Chicago operation with extension ramps with money to spare.
Using a belt loader extension ramp allows the crews to keep the belt loader further from the aircraft which in turn reduces the possibility for damage. In fact, while using the extension ramp it becomes a detriment to crews to park too closely to the aircraft as the ramp would end up being positioned too far inside the cargo door. One can only imagine that insurance costs would drop in turn as claims decreased.
3. Productivity increases as speed of the loader may be increased. Too often you see one person standing at the controls starting and stopping the belt in an attempt to keep cargo from falling to the ground. When cargo does drop to the ground, someone must be there to pick up the cargo off the ground and place it into the airplane. Essentially while using the belt loader extension ramp you could feasibly reduce each loading crew by one person. This in and of itself could pay for the ramps in very little time. Once the equipment is paid for, any company would be money ahead without losing any productivity.
4. Damage to cargo will be reduced. On a daily basis we have seen cargo and luggage getting caught in between the moving belt of the belt loader and the aircraft, often resulting in the cargo falling to the ground, but often causing damage. This produces upset customers and damage claims that again cost the company money.
While finalizing the design for the Belt Loader Extension Ramp, we witnessed this type of damage to several items. This damage resulted in zipper tabs being ripped off of luggage. In one day we removed four metal zipper tabs from the flight line that left alone could very well have been ingested in the engine of a 737 or 757 on start up. This type of f.o.d. damage is always very costly.
Please watch the video of the Belt Loader Extension Ramp and get a very good idea of what is happening. The video was taken in cooperation with various U.S. airlines who have been testing this unit and allowing us to perfect it while they used it. Over one year later, they are still using the Belt Loader Extension Ramp and loving it. GSE at one of the airports where the testing is taking place is desperately awaiting money to be allocated for them to outfit the remainder of their belt loaders with the ramp.
In the words of the supervisor there when asked how the ramp was working for him; "You have this one dialed in, you are on the money with this one."