by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte
e-mail: mercedesbenzblog@gmail.com

Airport catering with the Econic

The Mercedes-Benz Econic, the advanced low-floor transport vehicle produced at Daimler's Wörth plant, is demonstrating increasing competence in the airport ground services sector - including showing its strengths as a catering vehicle at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Catering company Gate Gourmet has been serving air travellers at Sweden's largest airport with meals, snacks, drinks and other in-flight provisions for almost three years now, all delivered using 10 Mercedes-Benz Econic vehicles. In addition, Lufthansa subsidiary LSG recently signed a contract for no less than 39 vehicles.


Market leader in the catering sector

Lufthansa is the parent company of LSG Sky Chefs, headquartered in Neu-Isenburg, close to Frankfurt Airport. LSG was established in 1966, and in 1993 acquired a 25 percent stake in Sky Chefs, the caterers to American Airlines established back in 1942. In 1995, the Lufthansa subsidiary acquired the remaining shares in the company, whose name since that time has also included the designation "Sky Chefs". The 133 companies belonging to the LSG Sky Chefs Group, which has 195 operations in 50 countries, claim to serve more than 300 airlines worldwide. Currently, around 460 million meals are produced each year. In 2010 the company had a staff of almost 28,500 employees.

Gate Gourmet, meanwhile, belongs to Gategroup Holding AG, headquartered in Zürich Kloten. Gategroup has its roots in the airline company Swissair, established in 1931. The company operates more than 130 sites in 35 countries, staffed by around 22,000 employees.

Scissor lift platforms meet catering requirements

As is the case for air freight deliveries, the airline catering sector also makes use of special vehicles fitted with scissor lift platforms enabling containers to be lifted up to a height of 5.70 metres, level with aircraft loading compartments.

Preparing an aircraft for take-off – whether an A 320, A 380, or a Boeing 757, or even smaller aircraft too – calls for a lot of work at the terminal. Loading luggage, refuelling, cleaning, and catering are all steps which need to be dealt with not only as quickly as possible, but also as punctually as possible - down to the second. Things can sometimes get a bit cramped in the regular, smaller catering vehicles, and since 2008 Gate Gourmet has therefore been making use of ten high-volume Mercedes-Benz Econic vehicles, complete with scissor lift platforms, at Arlanda Airport in Sweden's capital. From the wide-bodied A 380 down to the small MD 80, the vehicles are able to serve all aircraft types without the need to resort to any other vehicle.

This on its own is a big advantage. The unique low-floor design of the specialist vehicle from Wörth continues to impress - again and again. "It's easy to drive, almost like a car, and the low cab entry is really convenient", according to the drivers. The Econic's large panoramic windscreen helps to ensure optimum visibility, while the standard automatic transmission makes precise manoeuvring possible. Even when things get so tight around the aircraft that it becomes difficult to get out of a vehicle, with its folding co-driver door opening at the touch of a button, the Econic has a clear advantage. This is precisely why it has already been in great demand for a number of years now, particularly in the municipal waste disposal sector - from Paris to Prague, and from Va­lencia to Athens.

The Econic is tailor-made for catering services

The Mercedes-Benz Econic is the only heavy-duty series production truck in the 18 to 26-ton gross vehicle weight class which is available with an overall height of 2.35 metres (with the low cab). It is specifically when a wide-bodied aircraft such as the A 380 has to be loaded that in theory the containers could also be delivered using larger trucks. However, with cab heights of 3.20 metres, these have the disadvantage of not being able to get close enough to the aircraft's oval-shaped fuselage.

Smaller trucks from the 12-ton class, meanwhile, have the disadvantage of more vehicles being needed for a delivery, and in turn more space for them to park next to the plane, which is not always possible. The Econic, with a gross vehicle weight of 18 to 26 tons, is precisely the right size and also tailor-made for catering thanks to its low frame, full air suspension, folding door, panoramic windscreen and automatic transmission.

Once there were on-board chefs

According to the historical records of Lufthansa, in the 1930s when commercial air travel started, it was quite normal for a chef to travel on board the aircraft to prepare the meals in a proper kitchen. Aside from the various quantities involved, this has not been possible for a long time now due to safety reasons. The low-temperature operations of LSG in Alzey alone currently produce up to 700,000 meals per week. These meals are transported to the aircraft by catering vehicles, heated up in the aircraft galleys and served via trolleys.

Environmentally-friendly engine line-up

The Econic has a whole host of other benefits to offer too. These include in particular the vehicle's environmentally-friendly engines: the Econic can be driven by the 900 model series six-cylinder in-line diesel engines or by natural gas engines - both types are EEV-certified (Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicle).

At Arlanda Airport, Gate Gourmet is still using diesel engines. Its "neighbour" in Stockholm, Vatten Bromma - which supplies both drinking water and wastewater disposal services to the city's two million inhabitants - has been using Mercedes-Benz Econic vehicles with natural gas engines, available since 2002, for a good seven years now. The M 906 LAG natural gas engine produces 205 kW (279 hp) from a displacement of 6.9 litres. The best part here though is that Vatten Bromma runs the vehicles on biogas from its wastewater treatment plant. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz Econic is not only CO2 neutral, but is also making a significant contribution to reducing the burden on the environment.
Credits: Daimler AG

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