Air Mobility Battlelab combines cargo, passenger loaders

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With a mission to make loading passengers and cargo easier, the Air Mobility Warfare Center's Air Mobility Battlelab came up with an innovative idea using existing technology -- the Halverson Air Stairs Kit, or HASK.

The HASK concept is a passenger stairs attachment kit designed to entirely replace the existing walk deck found on the right side of the Halvorsen 25,000-pound cargo loader, according to the project manager of the HASK initiative, Master Sgt. Rudy Cartagena of the Air Mobility Battlelab.

"This is done with minimal changes for adaptation, so all functionality of the loader remains," Sergeant Cartagena said. "Height adjustments are controlled and provided by the loader. In the 'stairs' mode, the steps remain level regardless of height adjustments provided by the loader. In the 'cargo' mode with the stairs stowed, the steps close flat and work as a walk deck. At any time, the stairs can be removed and the original walk deck can be re-fitted. The HASK was built by FMC Airline Systems, who also builds the Halvorsen."

The idea of dual-use material handling equipment like the HASK originated from former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman to address the lack of passenger stairs at forward bases.

"Oftentimes, passenger stairs are not available during the first few weeks after the onset of deployed operations," Sergeant Cartagena said. "Cargo loaders will always be available because they're needed to download aircraft cargo. Modifying a loader with passenger stairs makes both cargo and passenger capabilities available simultaneously.

The idea with HASK, Sergeant Cartagena said, is to have it deploy with first responders in support of global contingencies, where cargo handling is needed.

"The idea of being able to handle both cargo and passengers with one piece of equipment, while not increasing the footprint, seems like a sure winner," Sergeant Cartagena said. "All branches of the military that travel by air can potentially benefit from this technology. The concept may also provide a means of deploying personnel anywhere a commercial aircraft can land."

Members of the Air Force air transportation career field expressed concern that using the HASK would take the loader away from its primary mission of handling cargo. "However, feedback from the field indicates that when passenger stairs are not available at air travel hubs, the loaders are frequently used to download passengers," Sergeant Cartagena said. "So why not add passenger stairs to the loader to download passengers more safely?"

Sergeant Cartagena said dual-use equipment like the HASK-modified loaders can play a role in military operations of the future with a high potential to improve passenger and cargo handling.

"Even if further field testing finds the HASK loader not to be ready for prime time, all the work and resources were not lost," Sergeant Cartagena said. "HASK might serve as the groundwork for the future cargo and passenger handling concepts. Perhaps future generations of loaders will incorporate a lighter, fully automated version of the HASK concept."

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