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.
Their bespoke bodies are by Wilker Auto Conversions, best known for building ambulances.
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 debris, including small spills of hydraulic oil or even items dropped by passengers.
“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 Airport 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.”
The four-door crew cab variant, says Hole, gives the team greater operational flexibility should extra personnel be needed for larger incidents.
The partially cage-sided bodies are fitted with tail-lifts, and storage units with roller shutter doors which carry clean-up equipment and materials. The inventory also includes a medical kit, as the teams are trained to deal with minor injuries and could be first responders.
As well as responding to spills and other incidents, the airside operations teams undertake routine inspections at night. After clearance from air traffic control, they go on to the runway and use the Sprinter’s on-board high-density lights to check for surface damage.
Hole adds: “These vehicles do not cover big mileages but given the critical nature of the work, they have to perform – and that includes starting first time, every time.
“Our experience with their predecessors, and, indeed, with six other Sprinters which are allocated to our engineering team, has confirmed that the Mercedes-Benz product offers the all-important reliability which is so crucial to the smooth running of the airport.”