Paderborn-Lippstadt (PAD), a tiny, 50-year-old airport, 70 km east of Dortmund Airport in Germany, is mostly only known to a small number of passengers in the surrounding catchment area,
who catch the odd cheap flight to a handful of holiday destinations. Yet, the family-run aerospace and automotive engineering company, HEGGEMANN AG, is investing in the construction of a test
center, as part an Innovation Center there, that should play a role in the future of aviation.
The airport’s heyday was around the turn of the Millennium, peaking in 2005. Since then, PAD has struggled to attract traffic and eventually declared insolvency in September 2020, though it managed to get back on track again, six months later. It hosts holiday airlines, business and private charters, and – like most destinations over the past two years, saw the odd cargo charter land with Covid-19 medical materials on board. Perhaps the most emotional cargo charter landing, was that of the German military on 03DEC21, transporting 6 intensive-care Covid-19 patients from South Germany, where there was a lack of beds, to hospitals in the vicinity.
A little cargo
The airport handles a couple of hundred tons of cargo a year. There are regular charter flights to European destinations in the weight segment of between 20 and 3,000 kg, primarily carrying supplier parts for the automotive industry. Lufthansa Cargo runs weekday truck connections from PAD to FRA, where the cargo can onforward to more than 250 international destinations, and the airport has been endeavoring to convince other carriers to include PAD in their trucking network. The airport’s cargo business focus is on the large, medium-sized business sector in East Westphalia-Lippe and neighboring regions, as well as on air freight agents. With 24-7 availability, no night-flight ban, fully IATA-trained staff, local customs, and modern equipment capable of handling all aircraft up to Category Code 4E, one might expect more interest.
Though maybe that is about the change. For instance, Paderborn/Lippstadt was one of the first airports to enter into a partnership with Dronamics, in APR21, and agree to be the base for one of its drone ports, in a European network of more than 39 stations in 13 countries. Shortly afterwards, Dronamics also signed up DHL and Hellman, so the groundwork is there for the possibility of a busy e-commerce network appearing in over the next few years. “We expect operations to begin in 2022,” Paderborn Airport told CFG last year. “We designed our model to operate out of existing airports where we'll have a team of pilots, ground handlers and mechanics at each location,” Svilen Rangelov stated in an earlier interview. A droneport will bring new jobs and life to the airport.
Innovation Center - Paderborn
Drones are also one of the focus points of the new test center recently built by HEGGEMANN AG at the airport. “Aircraft such as air cabs and transport drones, as well as new types of propulsion systems that are particularly low in noise and emissions, are currently being developed all over the world as part of promising projects. As a long-standing partner of the international aviation industry, HEGGEMANN is already involved in many innovative projects in the development and manufacture of complex systems,” the recent press release states.
HEGGEMANN’s aviation test center is the first project within the scope of the Innovation Center at Paderborn/Lippstadt Airport. The Innovation Center, supported by the nearby Frauenhofer Institute, brings together a group of around 30 companies looking collaborate with research institutes, to develop future technologies for sustainable aerospace operations and efficient airport infrastructures.
The location appears predestined for such an Innovation Center. Prof. Dr. René Fahr, speaking on behalf of the University of Paderborn, during a visit at the airport earlier this month, together with Minister of Economics and Innovation, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, explained: “The region is a location of cutting-edge research with institutes of high technology in the field of lightweight construction or mechatronics as well as an example of the consistent transfer of this research into application with industrial partnerships. We want to transfer this successful model to aviation and airport operations and thus further advance the region. I am convinced that a lighthouse project with international appeal is being created here.”
Investing in the future
Work on the HEGGEMANN AG built test center began in 2020, and it was originally due to go into operation in early 2021. A year later, the project is becoming a reality. Supervisory Board Chairman, Robert Heggemann, underlined: “With this investment in the high six-figure range, we are strengthening the future viability of our family-run company. At the same time, we want to send a visibly positive signal for the innovation center at the airport.”
The new building, which is over 13 meters high, will be used to test new mobility concepts for aviation and complete landing gear systems for aircraft from this summer onwards, as well as simulate landings in normal and emergency conditions. Head of Development, Dr. Thomas Meyer emphasized the importance of the new test center for HEGGEMANN AG: “The possibility of now being able to verify the structures and landing gear systems we design and manufacture, using our own test facility, is unique worldwide for companies of comparable size and significantly shortens the development cycles for our customers.”
Other research projects will look into CO2 and noise reduction. Also, Paderborn is one of the few areas in Germany that generates more renewable electricity than it consumes. The surplus could eventually be used to generate green hydrogen for aviation, for example. So, this tiny airport (actually 12th in size in the country), could soon be dictating a green aviation future.
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