ATEL Products/Avialift

Operated from Jan 1974 to c.1987

Up until the early 1960s, Aviation Traders had confined themselves mostly to providing aircraft engineering and technical services, although like any other company of its kind, it would also go on to offer a number of other engineering solutions. It was in 1963 that the biggest change would come about with the introduction of the Hylo scissor lift which we will look at in more detail below. As the 1960s progressed, ATEL became increasingly involved with the manufacture of ground handling equipment, the sales of which were handled by their ‘Commercial Products Division’. However in 1969, the departure of B.K.S. Engineering saw ATEL taking over their hangar which then went on to become their main equipment production facility. With more space now available, ATEL expanded this department dramatically and was now well placed to meet the ever increasing demands for such vital airport machinery.

Needless to say, this side of the business was expanded considerably and in 1974, ATEL’s owner Air Holdings took the decision to turn this division of the company into a separate concern which was then relaunched as ATEL Products Ltd. From this point on, ATEL Products would become solely responsible for the manufacture of Hylo lifters, ground equipment and aircraft parts while ATEL could now go back to concentrating purely on aircraft overhauls and maintenance. However in May 1976, ATEL’s aircraft engineering wing would be sold off, eventually becoming a subsidiary of Aer Lingus. Needless to say, in an attempt to centralise operations, ATEL was moved to Stansted leaving all but the former B.K.S. hangar temporarily empty. Being a separate concern, ATEL Products continued to operate at Southend and within a few weeks, Air Holdings had launched another aircraft engineering company called Britavia.

Having been summarily divorced from its parent company and with the ATEL name now being under new ownership, Air Holdings then decided to distance itself from its former brand and renamed the company as Avialift Products Ltd. That being said, the ATEL name would still unofficially linger on for a period of time afterwards. Quite naturally, the main breadwinner for this company was the Hylo scissor lift, but other ground handling machinery would be turned out in good numbers too (again, more info about these products is available below). By the early ’80s, Air Holdings had resurrected the Airwork name and sometime during this period, Avialift became a subsidiary of this company. It would appear that Avialift Products then continued to operate up until 1987 when it was either absorbed into Airwork Limited or was finally wound up, although its exact fate remains unknown.

 

Parts & Equipment Manufactured by ATEL Products/Avialift Products

Over the years, Aviation Traders would produce a considerable number of production and bespoke parts for aircraft manufacturers and airlines alike. As previously mentioned on the ATEL page, Bristol 170 centre wing sections would become one of ATEL’s first leaps into mass production with a total of 50 of them being produced at SEN. More specialised work would also occasionally be undertaken, from the machining of small trim tabs for Britten-Norman to the fabricating of Concorde air-intake dump doors and VC-10 engine nacelles. Meanwhile, the company would also produce bespoke passenger interiors and galleys for various types of aircraft. However, it was ground handling equipment that really got this division of ATEL off of the ground with drivable baggage belts, luggage trolleys and stairs being amongst its main products. Two of their most popular belts are listed below:

 

CKC 600

This model was a drivable baggage/cargo belt powered by straight-4 Ford diesels or Ford V4 petrol engines. There was also a V6 Essex version, one of which was used at Southend by Routair. However, whether this particular belt was a production model or yet another Clive Wren special is unknown. Either way, these belts could propel a maximum of 750kg of baggage or cargo at 15 degrees.

APL 750E

This variant first appeared in 1983 and was basically an environmentally friendly version of the above by virtue of the fact that it was battery powered. The exact operating specifications are unknown but they were probably quite similar to those of the CKC 600.

Sufficed to say, ATEL/Avialift would not rest on their laurels and as such branched out further into air bridge manufacturing using the name ‘Aviobridge’ which supplied rotunda parts such as noses and flex-joints to airports in the U.K. and to Germany under licence to Fokker-VFW. Parts for the latter were shipped to Cologne where they were then installed by Avialift engineers. A small number of road going vehicles were also built with the rather curious although ultimately unsuccessful ‘Aviasweep’ road cleaner (featured to the left) being sold in small numbers to amongst others Surrey County Council. Articulated trailers were churned out under contract too, the first batch consisting of tanker trailers for Crane Fruehaf which were then allegedly dispatched to Syria. Tanker trailers were also constructed for brewery use and a number of 40ft, flat bed trailers eventually brought these contracts to an end. Even vehicle parts were sometimes produced, such as steering wheels that were turned out for Mountney during 1971.

 

The Hylo and Super Hylo

It was the success of the Hylo scissor lift that subsequently compelled ATEL to get involved with the manufacture of ground handling equipment with the very first of these lifts being produced around 1962/63. It goes without saying that ATEL quickly realised that they were onto a good thing and it wasn’t long before airlines and air forces worldwide were flying into Southend to collect significant quantities of these machines. In fact, the Germans bought so many of them that ATEL ended up presenting them with a model in acknowledgement of this. Mechanically, all but the earliest Hylos were Ford based with the motive parts coming from Perry’s at Kent Elms, while the frames were produced locally. The range was quite naturally expanded upon too with the original Hylo Mk.II being upgraded to the Hylo 15, while ATEL’s premium model called the Super 18 Hylo would be unveiled to service the wide bodied airliners that were emerging at the time. Below you will find a list of all but the most obscure of Hylo models:

 

Hylo Mk.I

This was the initial prototype model which was designed with no other purpose in mind than that of tackling the problem of loading and offloading vehicles in support of air-ferry operations with the Carvair, whose cargo deck was around 9ft off of the ground. The exact specifications of this model are not known, although it is believed that this particular Hylo was both pulled and hydraulically powered by an articulated tractor of sorts. As for its lifting capabilities, it is highly likely that they were very similar to those of the Mk.II production model below.

 

Hylo Mk.II

The very first Hylo production model was developed around 1963, primarily to support Carvair car ferry operations. This single platform scissor lift was motorised and powered by a Coventry Climax Victor petrol engine. It could lift vehicles or freight weighing anything up to 5 tons.

 

Hylo Mk.3

Also emerging in 1963 was a further motorised model that was developed to mainly handle pallets. Three such pallets could be transported at one time and the maximum lifting capacity was just under 16 tons. It was also the first Hylo to appear with a platform that was adjustable about all three planes. The R.A.F. would be the primary customer for this equipment.

 

Hylo Mk.5

This Hylo was developed to assist operations at smaller airports where facilities were limited. It was only available in towable form but could still lift an impressive 3.5 tons to just under 3.5m. Another major advantage of this Hylo was its ability to be broken down quickly for transport.

 

Hylo Mk.6

This model was produced mainly for side loading duties with K.L.M. They came equipped with three plane alignment and could lift 5 tons to a height of 4.5m.

 

Hylo Mk.7 & Mk.8

The mid-60s saw the arrival of the 7.5 ton capable Mk.7 & Mk.8. While having the same freight lifting capabilities, the Mk.7 was motorised while the Mk.8 model needed to be towed by another vehicle. These variants were basically low lifters that were designed to support A.W.650 Super Argosy operations. B.E.A. would become the main customer for these Hylos, going on to purchase a number of them which were collected from SEN by Argosies and then subsequently dispersed to their main cargo bases around the U.K. and Europe.

 

Super Hylo Mk.12A

Produced from the early 1970s onwards, this Hylo was designed mainly to tackle the loading and unloading of cargo holds on large, wide bodied aircraft, although at least one was used for car-ferry duties both at Southend and Lydd. The lifting capacity was 6.8 tons which could be raised to a maximum height of 3.45m. A low bed, ‘Super Transporter’ pallet handling version of the Super Hylo 12A was available too. This could tow trailers with loads of up to 18 tons and could also be modified into a Super Hylo if so required. This model ended up with a good number of airlines and airports including Seaboard World, TMA, VARIG and BAA.

 

 Super Hylo 15

Appearing in the early 1970s, this was a drivable, single platform, multi-purpose base model that could be used to lift containers, cargo or vehicles in support of freight or car-ferry operations.

 

Super Hylo 15-MSL

First launched around 1979. This was a twin platform variant of the above which was chiefly designed to lift pallets and containers. Its lifting capacity was around 7 tons.

 

Super Hylo 15-E

Appearing around 1985, this environmentally friendly version of the Hylo 15-MSL was powered by an electric motor rather than the standard Ford diesel engine. Battery life was around 6-7 hours while the lifting capacity remained at 7 tons.

 

Super Hylo 18

The largest product in the Hylo range was this dual, main deck loader that was designed to service wide bodied airliners. Manchester Airport and Malawi International Airport were amongst the first customers. This design first appeared around 1975 and it was tested on a 747 at Heathrow (this particular aircraft apparently survives to this day!).  Lifting capacity was around 6.8 tons on its smaller deck and just over 13.5 tons on its main deck, the former of which could be raised to 5.5m.

 

Super Hylo 102.1

This particular scissor lift was a single platform, intermediate product falling between the Super Hylo 15 and the Super Hylo 18. As far as can be ascertained, this model appeared around 1983 and could lift 9 tons up to a height of 3.25m.

 

Super Hylo 102.3M

Basically a military variant of the Super Hylo 102.1 which also appeared in the mid-80s. Unlike the other Hylos, it could be split lengthways for transport on a C-130 Hercules, although it was still capable of lifting up to 9 tons and could also tow a further 9 tons of cargo or equipment on a separate trailer. A good number were sold to the RAF and various NATO/Middle Eastern air forces.

 

Skyloader

The largest ground equipment ATEL Products made was the Skyloader. This large lifter first appeared in 1972 and was slightly different to a Hylo by virtue of of the fact that it used four posts rather than a twin scissor mechanism. While operations demanded that the front two posts guide the platform while the rear two did the lifting, these machines were ultimately too complex to operate and maintain and as such, they needed at least one of ATEL’s best engineers on hand to keep them working at optimum efficiency. Needless to say, very few of them were actually made. The lifting capabilities of this loader while no doubt impressive, are unfortunately not known.

 

With many thanks to Mike Morant, Flightglobal and Tony Mullinger for the information and pictures above.

 

Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about this company or indeed any pictures that you would like to share? If so, please contact us on saadinfomail@gmail.com

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.