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Airport Mower

Summary

  • Can cut 66,000 sq m per hour
  • Cuts at over 20km/h
  • Chops finely leaving no windrows even at speed
  • Can go anywhere a man can (7 Psi ground loading)
  • No damage from ground contact
  • Designed for operator efficiency

 

The importance of grass control at airports

In NZ alone there are typically 1,000 birdstrike incidents every year – 400 hits and another 600 near misses. Globally the cost is $1.4 billion, and 90% of birdstrike incidents take place near or on airports.

A fundamental part of bird control at airports is keeping the grass at the right length – long enough to deter birds from landing, but short enough not to tempt them with seed or insects attracted by flowers.

Additionally, the soil cannot be damaged or exposed at any time, because this attracts birds to eat worms, nor can windrows be left as they attract rats and mice and can blow to the terminal areas.

A flock of the common starling was enough to kill 62 people in Boston!

The difficulty of grass control at airports

  • The area is enormous – Auckland airport alone has two million square metres of grass to mow.
  • The ground is flat, often low-lying with poor drainage, making areas impassable to traditional tractors.
  • Mowing at higher heights (200mm) through a mixture of grass types is technically challenging.
  • There can be no accumulations of cut materials and cut grass must mulch down very quickly.
  • Access to the areas is brief and infrequent (2.5 hours a week for the runway area at Auckland airport).
  • Vehicles must be able to move at speed in the event of an aircraft emergency.
  • Vehicles must not eject debris because loose stones are a lethal threat to aircraft.

Current solutions

  • During summertime, grass can be kept at the appropriate length using Topper mowers, although their speed of operation or speed to vacate is an unwelcome compromise.
  • During large periods of time, the ground is too soft for mowing; either the vehicle itself would sink or its cutting equipment would gouge the soft ground at undulations or whilst turning.
  • Once the ground can handle the weight of a vehicle, the amount of material that has grown is such that it cannot be cut and left. It is recovered by forage harvesters and disposed of off-site.
  • Forage harvesting is very slow (4km/h), covers a narrow cut width and is frequently interrupted to drive a substantial distance every time the load is full.
  • As a consequence, a vicious circle emerges where the airport is never able to catch up with the rate of growth following a wet period, for up to an entire season.
  • Due to these current limits of technology, numerous airports have had to accept less than ideal habitat management due to their climate and soil. Not any more!

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Fieldmaster’s solution

Fieldmaster’s machine can cut in any conditions. By cutting through the wet season and chopping the cut material finely, it never permits the amount of cut material to reach a level where it cannot be left. Therefore, the airport can be cut quickly and effectively all year round using less vehicles.

How does it work?

The Airport Express is built around a base unit of the Reform Metrac H7X, a 70hp slope tractor. Being built for alpine use, it is light (2.3tonnes base weight) with four broad, small-diameter driving wheels.

The Airport Express has a ground loading of 7psi, the same as a man, which allows it to access the boggiest areas.

The Airport Express suspends the cutting decks from frames, with 95% of the weight of the decks taken through the wheels, avoiding any form of ground damage.

In order to reduce overall weight (and weight at the extremities), the decks are made of carbon-fibre (interwoven with Kevlar) with hydraulic drive.

The decks use a (patent pending) ground-following system which instantly adjusts to fluctuations in the ground height as felt at the front of each individual cutting deck.

The cutting heads use advanced high-speed cutting technology which ensures 5 passes over each area of the cut width, which uses lift to ensure a perfect cut and which finely threshes the cut material.

Additional benefits

Operator comfort – the machine has outstanding visibility, low operator movement due to vehicle motion and all functions are located with the ergonomics of the driver in mind

Operator accuracy – the machine includes cutting head rpm displayed via a HUD, and a large/small scale GPS for optimal track following (essential when cutting a 40mm difference in the dark) and hazard logging.

Speed to vacate – the machine has a road speed of 40kmh, and in the event of emergency it takes only a couple of seconds to be clearing the scene at maximum speed.

Speed to change cutting height – Cut heights from 80 to 200mm (or more) are available, and changing each deck takes less than one minute with a spanner.

Low running cost – the economical Austrian machine uses a 70 Hp engine and the cutting system has few consumable parts.

Asset management – the servicing data and the system is managed via a touch screen controller in the cab, providing usage and parameter information.

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See the Fieldmaster Express Airport Mower in action on You Tube.