Soaring demand sees two Mercedes Sprinters at Gatwick Airport03 December 2018

Gatwick Airport Storage and Hydrant Company (GASHCo) has taken delivery of two specially equipped Mercedes-Benz Sprinters to maintain the network of aviation fuel hydrants at Gatwick Airport.

Supplied by dealer Rossetts Commercials, both are 5.0-tonne chassis cabs, Sprinter 516 CDI models, and are powered by 161bhp four-cylinder engines.

Their bodies were built by Flightline Support, of Witney, and are fitted with bespoke equipment used by GASHCo’s crews to clean and dry the 320 fuel hydrants housed in pits beneath the apron surface.

For the last 20 years the company has operated a single Sprinter to carry out these duties, but a significant increase in airport traffic meant it needed two new vehicles to meet the increased demand for its services.

“Our last Mercedes-Benz was exceptionally reliable – a fantastic workhorse,” says Richard Jeffrey, GASHCo’s operations supervisor. “These vehicles cover very few miles, but the engines are running constantly because they also power all of our ancillary equipment.”

He adds: “Aside from its proven durability, the Sprinter also ticks all of our boxes in terms of its specification. We need a 5.0-tonne chassis to cope with the weight of the body, and everything that’s on it, as well as a direct-drive power take-off to run it all. Very few other vehicles meet these requirements.”

The Sprinters are fitted with high-pressure jet-washing systems, air-drying lances and vacuum pumps to suck out any fluid that has gathered around the hydrants, as well as stainless steel tanks for clean and dirty water.

The hydraulic system is configured so that the jet-wash and vacuum pumps can be operated simultaneously. Each vehicle also carries special equipment to draw off fuel samples, which are analysed to ensure there is no contamination.

All of the equipment is operated via a simple panel on the body, which features gauges, switches, warning lights and audible alarms for all systems, as well as an emergency engine cut-off button – a second button is located on the opposite side.

An electrically actuated brake interlock will also cut the engine automatically if the driver attempts to move off with a hose still attached or a coupling incorrectly stowed.

Laura Cork

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