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A helping hand for airport baggage handlers

education Updated: Jul 02, 2013 15:47 IST
Jeevan Prakash Sharma
Jeevan Prakash Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Do you know how loading and unloading of your heavy baggage actually causes severe injuries to airport baggage handlers? Millions of air travellers might not have ever given any thought to the plight of these airport workers but a team of five students from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Loughborough University, UK, was so moved by the sight that it decided to find a way out for them.

One of the team members was struck by an idea while playing air hockey. “Many people might not see any connect between an air hockey table and an answer for baggage handlers’ problems but we could find a solution. We have come up with a concept of an air-powered baggage handling system,” says Leonardo Akamatsu, a University of São Paulo student, at the award ceremony at Unesco headquarters in Paris. The students claim that if this concept is put into practice, it will not only help passengers collect their luggage 30% faster, luggage handlers would also be under less physical strain.

And their humanitarian concern proved to be rewarding when they won the Airbus Fly Your Ideas global competition. The top prize carries €30,000 which will be equally distributed to the five students. These five students, known as Team Levar, found that there is so much concern for air traveller’s safety and comfort vis-à-vis environmental pollution but there is no concern for optimisation of ground services.

“We came to know that many baggage handlers suffer shoulder injuries due to loading and unloading of heavy luggage. So, the first thing that came to our mind is why even in 2013, when we have so much technology, comfort and innovation on the cabin, the airport baggage handlers still lack any technological assistance,” says Adriano Furtado, a member of Team Levar.

He adds, “Fuel burn has been reduced by 70% in the past 20 years and aircraft noise by 75% in the past 40 years. Not only that. Air traffic has increased by 53% while the capacity growing only 41%. So this shows that it needs a bit more attention on improving ground operations at airports.”

The winning team comprised Marcos Philipson, Leonardo Akamatsu, Adriano Furtado and Caio Reis, all studying design at the University of São Paulo, Brazil and Henrique Corazza studying at Loughborough University in the UK.

The runner-up was Team CLiMA from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, that bagged €15,000 for their proposal to develop aircraft fuelled by a blend of sustainably-produced liquefied biomethane and liquefied natural gas (Bio-LNG).

The other teams that made to the final were Team AVAS from India that came out with a jet exhaust shape modification as a way of noise reduction in aircraft; Team Flybrid from Italy which innovated an electric/turboprop combination for hybrid propulsion in regional aircraft and Team Embarker from Malaysia that suggested a self-sustaining aircraft cabin concept.

Senior officials from Airbus, associated with the contest, were happy to see its growing popularity among the youth. Says Charles Champion, executive vice president (engineering), Airbus, “One of the reasons why Team Levar was adjudged the winner is that it has taken a really broad view of how to improve the aviation industry as a whole.”

“This year’s challenge inspired over 6000 students from 82 countries to register with 618 teams submitting a proposal. The proposals had to cover one of six themes identified by Airbus as key 21st-century challenges for a greener aviation industry,” adds Champion.

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