Take-off for Pollite’s breakable airfield masts

A COMPANY which produces lighting and weather masts for the aviation industry is in high demand after winning a raft of contracts across the world.

Pollite has won six major airfield contracts since the spring of 2010 and has seen its specialist frangible masts installed at commercial, civil and military airfields in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Recent UK contracts include supplying hundreds of lighting masts to Liverpool John Lennon Airport; Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport and Glasgow International Airport as part of its multi-million pound redevelopment.

The company has also provided approach masts for Can-Tho Airport in Vietnam and Launceston Airport in Tasmania as well as securing a new contract in Brazil this week. (March 24)

Adrian Harrison, managing director of Pollite, said competitive pricing and the ability to turn orders around quickly at its manufacturing site in Darlington, County Durham, England, was helping to fuel increasing demand for the masts.

“When we launched it was clear we had something new and exciting in the market and the feedback was fantastic,” he said.

“The unique element of the mast is the simplicity of its design, the durability of the construction, how easy it is to install and the low shipping costs.

“Clients have also been impressed that because we’re a UK manufacturer, we can look after their design requirements on site and work to tight deadlines, delivering ‘just in time’ orders for UK and European markets.”

The masts were the brainchild of Mr Harrison who was looking at ways to diversify the family flagpole business, Harrison External Display Systems, which uses fibreglass in its products – a theoretically breakable material.

Mr Harrison spent 12 years developing the poles, ensuring that they would break on impact and meet strict frangibility requirements outlined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The testing process involved independent verification by a US testing house to prove its frangibility requirements and entailed high speed demonstrations at a former World War Two airstrip at York.

“It involved us attaching a section of airplane wing to a steel frame attached to a car and then hurtling down a runway at speeds of 87mph to test if the mast would break on impact,” said Mr Harrison.

“The masts had to break but in the right way at the right time, without blocking the path of the aircraft.

“Now we believe we’re one of only three manufacturers in the world which have successfully undertaken the physical tests to ensure we’ve complied with the strict guidelines.”

The lighting columns, along with the wind and weather masts, were launched at global aviation show inter airport, in Munich, in late 2009, and the company secured three immediate contracts as a direct result of the show.

Since its launch, Pollite has taken off across the world. As well as lighting masts, it has supplied windsock masts to a number of airports in Europe and the Middle East, including Iraq. 

Each of the masts are designed and assembled at Harrison’s factory in Darlington, County Durham, and raw materials and associated components are sourced from the UK to ensure traceability.

The factory has expanded from a small flagpole warehousing and manufacturing facility into a production hub of yellow approach masts, red and white windsock masts, areas of research and development and assembly.

“It’s a very complex industry with a great deal of compliance, certification and regulations,” said Mr Harrison.

“But we’ve got a great product. We’re flexible in the mast design, it’s light and easy to install and we’re able to respond quickly to order requests. We’re looking forward to seeing more orders come in during 2011.”

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