The new ‘rover’ vehicles have been assigned to two-man Airside Operations teams whose job is to keep Gatwick Airport’s runway and taxiways clear of Foreign Object Debris (FOD).
Small spills of hydraulic oil, or items dropped by passengers, for example, might otherwise cause a costly delay and could even pose a safety hazard.
Supplied by Dealer S & B Commercials, both are Sprinter 314 CDI models with optional 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven-speed automatic gearboxes, air-conditioning systems, and all-season tyres.
The vans were painted at the Mercedes-Benz factory in high-visibility Golden Yellow while their purpose-designed bodies are by Wilker Auto Conversions, which is best known for building ambulances.
“We typically handle 950 take-offs and landings per day, with a new aircraft on the runway every 55 seconds during peak periods,” says Gatwick's fleet manager John Hole.
“This illustrates why the role these new vehicles play is so important. If the taxiways and stands are not kept clear of debris then an aircraft might miss its departure slot, which can have major consequences.”
As well as responding rapidly to spills and other incidents, the Airside Operations teams undertake routine inspections at night, when the airport is quieter.
Having secured the ‘all clear’ from air traffic control, they will venture onto the runway and use the high-density lights carried on the Sprinters to check for damage to the surface, and anything that should not be there.
The new vans have replaced two Sprinters that had performed the same role for the last 11 years.
This is the first time, however, that Gatwick has opted for the four-door crewcab variant, which incorporates a four-man bench seat behind the two front seats and means that additional personnel can be ‘scrambled’ to work on larger incidents.
Winner of the Airport of the Year title at the National Transport Awards 2017, Gatwick Airport served 45.6 million passengers last year.
Located to the south of London, with excellent public transport links into the capital, it is a major economic driver for the UK, contributing £5.3 billion to national GDP and generating 85,000 jobs nationally.