Faster, finer, better
thyssenkrupp Elevator installed modern passenger boarding bridges and other systems at Galeão International Airport in record time
Robson Cleber Calvo thrives in stressful situations. The Manager for Special Projects at thyssenkrupp Elevator oversaw the installation and modernization of transport facilities at Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over the past few months. His team started by replacing 38 outdated passenger boarding bridges with 32 new ones in the parts of the airport that were already in operation. They also had to replace 11 elevators and 15 escalators. “We faced several immediate challenges,” says Calvo. “We had to work on a very tight schedule. The contract gave us 13 months to finish the job, but it took six to actually manufacture the bridges in Spain. It took another month to transport the bridges by ocean freight, and the customs officials went on strike, causing a 30-day delay.” The team had to install the bridges in record time once they arrived – while the airport continued its normal operations. “Just imagine: Airplanes were constantly landing on the construction site! And they always have priority.”
Calvo kept his composure throughout. His team of around 50 employees is used to achieving extraordinary feats. “It makes no difference to them if the Olympic Games or the World Cup is coming up. All they care about is focusing on their work and meeting deadlines.” The team had demonstrated this mindset while tackling previous projects at airports in São Paulo and Brasília. Rio was no different: They worked in shifts between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. without any complaints. They could only replace the escalators by working this late at night, when fewer passengers are traveling.
46 degrees Celsius and warm rain
Calvo had the respective areas barricaded during the day in order to replace the passenger boarding bridges. Mechanics would then work away in the sweltering heat of up to 46 degrees Celsius while cranes would balance parts – weighing several tons – at a height of 30 meters in strong winds. “We only stopped working if the wind reached a speed of over 60 kilometers per hour or if the typical summer downpours became too heavy,” says Calvo. “We needed to calculate everything very precisely in case something went wrong. We needed to prevent the parts from colliding into a plane at all costs.”
Nothing went wrong. Calvo’s team installed 26 new passenger boarding bridges, 14 moving walkways (including the longest moving walkway in Latin America, measuring 100 meters), six escalators, and 14 elevators at the newly built Terminal 3 with no accidents. “We were working when there was no passenger traffic, which was very easy compared to our remodeling work!” The team was just a few elevators shy of finishing the whole project in mid-April, with just over 100 days to go before the start of the Olympics.
The airport operators are very proud of the results; the airport has completely transformed! More airlines are now offering flights to the city on Sugarloaf Mountain, while others – such as Lufthansa – are offering more connections to Rio. Brazil relies heavily on its tourism industry, especially in light of the ongoing economic crisis, and hopes to increase the number of tourists from 6 million to 6.5 million this year.
Although Cariocas – as locals call themselves – were ashamed of the airport’s sorry state during the 2014 World Cup, they now have reason to be proud. Olympic spectators will enter Rio over the same passenger boarding bridges used in major European cities. The bridges consist of three metal links that each measure 21 meters when compressed. The longest measures 45 meters when extended. “This is truly cutting-edge technology,” says Calvo. “A built-in anti-collision system prevents collisions when two bridges are being attached,” he explains. This is necessary because Galeão International Airport recently became Brazil’s only airport – apart from Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo – that can land an Airbus A380, one of the world’s largest airplanes, which requires at least two bridges.
Calvo is proud that he was always on site during the months of construction and expansion. “This type of passenger boarding bridge weighs 32 tons, and I’m responsible for every accident! Of course it’s going to be a bit stressful,” he says. After a short pause, he adds: “But that’s exactly what makes my job fun!”