Route 797 | Interview with Alfio Mammana, Project Manager
Alfio Mammana is Project Manager Research & Development at the TKH Airport Solutions facilities in Lippstadt, Germany. Alfio has led the development of the new 797 product family from the very beginning. We spoke with him about the development process, the key features, and his pride in the new product range.
Alfio, before we start, can you tell us a little about your background?
I started working for HELLA at its – at that time recently founded – airfield lighting division in October 2010. Prior to that, I worked as Head of Production for a company active in the vehicle industry, being responsible for new products.
Fairly soon after I started working at HELLA, I became a Project Manager, and I have continued in this role for the past 10 years. During this time I was involved in the development of our 8″ and 12″ inset lights, and in bringing our complete family of LED inset lights to production. Later on, I was leading the development project of our elevated Runway Edge lights (HIRE).
What was the reason for starting the development of the 797-family?
Like in any business, the world of airfield ground lighting has evolved. Now more than ever, airports are looking for products that enable them to be adaptive and to operate efficiently. Where our previous elevated lights were mostly converted from Halogen to LED during the past 10 years, this new product has been designed for LED from the beginning onwards.
The team has been excited about the project from the beginning onwards. Everybody is very motivated to find solutions for every requirement.
Can you tell a little about the development process? What were important milestones to achieve?
We started setting up a project team consisting of a hardware engineer, an optics engineer, a mechanical designer, and a quality manager. When the first ideas and concepts were worked out, it was transferred to a design. With this design, we started intensive prototyping, to ensure high IP rating and perfect thermal management over the large variables of products in the 797-family within the large temperature range as the initial requirement.
One of the most important milestones last year was the completion of the test phase and the certification process. The final hurdle to be able to launch the product.
Were there more hurdles to take during the development process?
The Covid-19 pandemic did not make things easier, as was the case for most companies. The uncertainties in the world, sourcing the right supplier components; it gave us challenges. But the team showed a continuous motivation to bring this project to fruition.
You speak about the team, has it been a driving force behind the development?
Yes, it certainly has. We have a very competent R&D team here in Lippstadt, with a lot of joint experience with airfield lighting. I believe the way we work together is very special. There is little individualism and a good ‘culture of challenges’ with shared values and goals. The team has been excited about the project from the beginning onwards. Everybody is very motivated to find solutions for every requirement.
What makes the 797 lights so special compared to others?
The 797 is a state-of-the-art elevated light meeting the highest requirements. The products are based on a modular concept, with a small number of components. This means that by changing only a few components we can offer a completely new light. Also, the product family has several key features that are unique compared to other elevated lights.
Which aspect of the product are you most proud of?
I am especially proud of the heating function and the individual control using the second plug. Based on extensive research, our team developed this feature in-house. We tested it with a few customers and they are very happy with it.
Final question: how excited are you to finally launch the product?
I am extremely excited that we were able to launch the product and start production. In particular, during the challenging year of 2020, when Covid-19 hit the world, we made it to the launch. As we say in Germany, “wir haben es geschafft”. It makes me proud that we offer products with the highest performance and reliability, enabling our customers to create an elevated light in multiple variants.
And now, sit back and relax?
Perhaps you would think so – but no, we are more than eager to continue development. First of all, we will focus on the Runway Guard light and Sequential Flash Light system based on the 797 series. And also work is in progress to make the 797 products available in CEDD®, the innovative contactless AGL technology we offer. Finally, there are new features in the pipeline which I cannot disclose yet… I would say everybody should keep an eye on us!