William Bell, General Manager of our Wildlife Hazard Management division, talks about the process of improving the 37 strong fleet and why, for our wildlife hazard operators, it’s more than just a vehicle.
Air Partner’s acquisition of SafeSkys back in 2017 marked the start of a journey to transform what was a hard working small business into a professional market leader. Unlike most roles within the business, the remote Wildlife Hazard Management teams spend the majority of their working lives behind the wheel, patrolling airside in specially modified vehicles, which act as their equivalent office space. Just like the Air Partner physical office locations around the world, the vehicles represent both brand identity and provide the first impression when engaging with client personnel and the general public.
Due to the nature of activities within the role, there are requirements for the vehicles that you would not necessarily consider when buying your next motorway cruiser. The vehicles need to work well off-road in any weather condition, with generous ground clearances to tackle irregular drainage infrastructure or waterlogged areas. Tight turning circles are needed so as not to breach no-reverse policies imposed by some aerodrome operators, and panoramic windows are vital when tracking airborne hazards traveling through the 3 dimensional space; not to mention that unscheduled QRA Typhoon that suddenly appears behind you on the taxiway…
As the vehicles are used 24/7 it’s not just the outside that needs to be durable, soft interior trims are ideal for the morning commute, however don’t last long with the constant movement of onboard equipment and body parts. Enough space is needed to accommodate specialised tools, radios, firearms and consumables, all whilst providing a level of comfort and space that you would expect from sitting at your desk.
Ticking all of these boxes is a real challenge, especially when comfort, practicality and low cost rarely complement each other within the automotive world. Fortunately however, with the success of several large contract wins in 2019 and an adapted business strategy, Air Partner had begun the long process of improving the 37 strong fleet with vehicles that are fit for purpose, comfortable for the operators and that set a new tone of authority, which has already proven to translate to a heightened sense of confidence from our clients, pushing Air Partner further ahead of the competition.
At the beginning of the year, before the pandemic was fully realised, the annual budget included two replacement vehicles in-line with that strategy for two of our most prominent operations, RAF Lossiemouth, home of QRA and the new P8 Poseidon fleet, and RAF Northolt, home to the Royal and VIP transport Squadron. With the additional emphasis on “critical” for these pivotal operations, the replacement vehicles were purchased as originally planned and are in the process of being delivered to the operation.
From a distance, life in 2020 with the ongoing pandemic may seem like an inappropriate time to be investing in new vehicles, especially whilst the Group is forced to carefully resize and adapt to the external landscape. Considerable time, effort and methodical planning has been placed to ensure this strategy still delivers the most cost effective solution, with the added benefit of providing the hard working teams the right tools for the job, all of whom continue to put our customers first and provide these critical services despite the heightened risk from COVID 19.