Published on: October 14, 2021
Providing Solutions for Local Contractor
A large international manufacturing company was relocating its headquarters from New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina. Along with this move, came the need for their corporate aviation hub to move as well. Building a new hangar would present three major challenges for the company: schedule, cost, and permitting. Aircraft were already flying to Charlotte regularly, and the sooner they had a home – the better. The company found the answer in an abandoned flight museum already existing on airport property with plenty of hangar space for the aircraft and plenty of support space for their personnel.
The company contracted with Turner Construction to perform a full renovation of the hangar and the office in roughly a six (6) month time frame. Part of this renovation was to include a new overhead fall arrest system that could provide protection coverage for any point on the hangar floor. This would allow the company to position the several different types of private jets anywhere they needed in the hangar, and still be allowed to work on tops of them safely.
The project manager for Turner Construction knew the needed a top-notch provider who could deliver a high-quality product safely and efficiently. Months before Turner had access to the hangar, he reached out to Flexible Lifeline Systems, who began the process of working with him to gather information on needs of his client. Once the hangar was available to be seen in person, a FLS representative made the trip to consult with Turner and their client and begin developing the ideal solution.
The Advantages of a FlexBridge System for Overhead Fall Protection
Based upon the desire for complete hangar coverage, open space, and variety of aircraft in the hangar – the ideal solution was a no-brainier: Flexible Lifeline System’s FlexBridge system would be a perfect fit. The FlexBridge system is based on FLS’ FlexRail rigid rail system, with the added ability to be moved back and forth on its tracks to any position desired by the user. Normally, this is implemented with one (1) set of runways (tracks) and one (1) or two (2) bridges (fall-protection rails) – creating a single lane for the system to be moved back-and-forth on. However, due to the complete coverage requirement in the hangar, this solution involved several rows of FlexBridge systems that could travel back-and-forth, independently of one another on their respective runways. These adjacent bridges also provided overlapping fall protection coverage zones for the working levels, to ensure that there were no gaps in protection between the systems. The modularity and expandability of the FlexBridge system, made it the ideal choice for this hangar.
The FlexBridge design provides 100-percent fall protection coverage because the bridge can be rolled overhead in any part of the hangar. The user’s attachment is always centered over his or her head, minimizing swing fall hazards. The wings and fuselage of each aircraft introduced curved, slick, and uneven surfaces. Additionally, areas of the planes like the rear stabilizers didn’t leave much room for a misstep or miscalculation while working on top. Not only did the situation provide ANSI and OSHA compliance to the end user, more importantly the aircraft maintenance technicians would now be operating with an overhead system in place that will help prevent serious injuries or deaths if a fall happened to occur from on top of an aircraft.
The FLS FlexBridge system was installed to protect hangar workers tasked with cleaning and performing weekly maintenance atop corporate aircrafts. Their new system was customized with eight (8) enclosed track steel runways, creating four (4) FlexBridge lanes, supporting two (2) 40’ long steel bridges and two (2) 36’ long steel bridges that can be pulled by hand and each support two (2) users with the potential to add more. Now, aircraft workers are protected with a system that provides the shortest fall distance on the market. It has also greatly improved productivity because the system allows one work crew to perform maintenance in one part of the hangar, while another crew performs clean-up in the other.
As part of Flexible Lifeline Systems’ “whole site approach”, FLS also provided several secondary fall protection solutions around the building that will help prevent falls from several storage mezzanines while raising and lowering material to and from storage. These systems include floor-mounted single point anchors, ceiling-mounted single point anchors, and a ceiling-mounted FlexRail system. These systems provide either fall-restraint or fall-arrest for employees working near the exposed edges of the mezzanines while the storage gates are open for material to pass through.
Overcoming Engineering Resource Challenges to Deliver an Industry-Leading Solutions
One major challenge of this project was the lack of structural drawings for the hangar building. In order to perform our custom structural analysis and design that we do for each building we work on, FLS’ operations team mobilized to the hangar at the beginning of the project to measure each structural member of the building by hand in order to compile that information for our engineers and drafters. This included the main hangar space for the FlexBridge systems, as well as the storage spaces for the auxiliary systems. Thanks to a tireless effort across 2 days of measuring and sketching, the operations and design teams were able to deliver an accurate and compliant set of submittal drawings to the customer that reflected the actual on-site conditions. The full structural analysis was performed by our engineering team, which was able to mathematically verify that the structures were able to accept all systems and resulting loads from a fall.
From there, the race was on to quickly fabricate all the system components in our Houston shop, coat them, and ship them to the job site for installation starting in roughly four (4) weeks. The systems were installed correctly, efficiently, and – most important – safely by our full time, in-house, expert installation teams within a two (2) week window before the building was to be turned over to the owner. Delivering an outstanding product for our clients is a core mission here at Flexible Lifeline Systems, and this project exemplifies an accomplishment of that mission.