Safety rules and regulations require airports to install jet-blast fences. Why are they so important?

Holger Näther: Our jet-blast deflector is an important safety device that redirects the high-energy exhaust from jet-engines into a safe area, and prevents damage and injury. We are talking about heat and high-speed airstreams, but also about dust and small debris carried by turbulent air. Jet-blast protection must be strong and solid enough to withstand these forces. Without this protection, jet-blast can be dangerous to people, equipment and other aircraft.

People have fun being blown around at Maho Beach, near Princess Juliana International Airport on the island of St Maarten, when big jets take off. But what this really shows is the extreme force behind the jet-blast – and its potential risks. Accidents from jet-blast could lead to investigations by authorities and legal proceedings. This normally costs more money, time and trouble than installing jet-blast protection, not to mention the negative image such accidents can bring to an airport.

So the upfront cost of jet-blast safety saves money for airports in the long run?

Precisely. Efficient jet-blast protection is part of a bigger concept; optimising space at an airport is a key economic factor. Airlines are introducing more routes, so airports need to accommodate more aircraft while using the available space.

Take an expanding airport anywhere in the world, with new airlines knocking on the door and airport managers keen to secure new business. New space cannot be made available over night; quite frequently, new space is not available at all due to airfield boundaries. So, aircraft will need to be parked closer to each other, and possibly closer to airport buildings and other equipment, resulting in quite a few problems if you can’t handle the jet-blast. This is where jet-blast deflectors can help airports use the existing space more efficiently while keeping their high safety standards.

How does that actually work and what makes your product stand out?

We have been manufacturing jet-blast protection for more than 50 years. In the beginning, we worked with meshed metal fences, which was the standard at the time. Some manufacturers still produce this kind of fence today, but they have their limits: they are single-element constructions so are big and heavy, while corrosion protection and colour coating are also limiting factors, and they merely diffuse the jet-blast. By comparison, our jet-blast deflector is built from multiple parts and can be easily partially dismantled, which is a huge benefit when it comes to serviceability and exchange of damaged parts. Corrosion protection and colour coating is also easy, as our blast deflector consists of straightforward structures.

The biggest difference, however, is the blade technology, which allows up to 90° upward deflection of the jet-blast while maintaining a small footprint. We developed this product when Frankfurt International Airport approached us with a challenging project in 1990. The result is the modern Blast-Ex blade-deflector. In the end, the installation of jet-blast protection has to meet the needs of the airport, and this is where we provide support to our customers based on our profound expertise.

You are handling airport projects around the world. Can you give us an example?

One of our recent projects is Muscat International Airport, which is being completely modernised, with a new terminal, tower and runways. Our job was to provide jet-blast protection at three entry points to the runway in order to keep the service roads safe and free of jet-blast. To do this, we installed about 165m of high-performance jet-blast deflectors. The customer was pleased with the result and ordered another 160m of deflectors to further optimise the new airport. The additional deflectors were installed in the first half of this year.

A completely different project was finished at Dublin Airport at the end of 2014 where a mobile solution was needed in order to protect a moving construction area from jet-blast. Our deflectors can be installed either on fixed or mobile foundations to meet any customer need.

What will clients demand in the future and what will Blast-Ex offer?

Airports around the world have different demands, and this is the main challenge. They need safe, efficient and flexible products. Our Blast-Ex jet-blast deflectors meet most of today’s demands but are constantly being improved.

Our jet-blast deflectors can be moved if the set-up at the airport changes; they can be dismantled and stored in order to save space if only needed occasionally; if one part is damaged, that segment can be replaced quickly, while spare parts take up minimal storage space. This is the flexibility and cost-effective operation that modern airports are looking for.