Recycled aircraft chock for Virgin Australia
- Aug 23, 2011
Name - Les Payne
Company - Virgin Australia (in Virgin Tech the Aircraft maintenance company of Virgin Australia)
Role - Health Safety and Environment Specialist
Length at Virgin Tech - 8 ½ years
Loves – Enjoying great food, red wine in the great outdoors with my family and friends.
Hates – Living so far away from my private rangeland sanctuary in South Australia.
Recommends – Flying Virgin Australia and visiting Australia’s best kept secret – the Southern coast between Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.
What do you do at Virgin Tech?
In a nut shell, I monitor occupational health, safety and environmental performance and research information and provide advice on all things safety and environment.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Virgin Stars of the Year 2010 – Environment?
Virgin Australia’s Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change David White nominated me for the award early last year for using recycled plastic to make aircraft wheel chocks. It was a surprise but not as big as the surprise when I received an email in October advising that I was a finalist and invited to London for dinner with Sir Richard Branson!
I was one of the three finalists with the award ultimately going to Steven Groenewald of Virgin Active South Africa for a water conservation initiative. The Stars of the Awards Dinner was very inspirational, to meet folk from the Virgin global community. Certainly an unforgettable night.
What is the background to your wheel chock idea?
Ever since the Wright brothers flew the first aeroplane over a century ago, wheel chocks have been placed against the aeroplane tyres to prevent the parked aeroplane from moving. The timber chocks we used to use, wore our after 12 months and splintered. They were also expensive to purchase and floated away from the aircraft in intensive rain storms.
Why did you consider recycled plastic?
The old timber chocks were made from imported timber, however humans landfill millions of tonnes of plastic products each year. It is incredibly wasteful and unsustainable. I thought that using recycled plastic would score an environmental goal for Virgin Australia and mean they were sourced more locally.
What about research and development?
I worked closely with Peter Donahoo, the Purchasing Manager at Virgin Australia as well as the manufacturers. The design of the chock was modified a number of times. There were lots of things to take into account: improved durability, reduced weight and adhesion, visibility in low light, no metallic components that spark and identifiable as being Virgin Australia’s. So after two years of development we are chuffed to have created a version that does all that and are more popular than the old ones.
How much plastic has been recycled into chocks?
To date about 9,000 kilograms of old poly pipe, plastic buckets and food containers have been converted into aircraft chocks for Virgin Australia.
How long have you been interested in sustainability?
My Dad instilled the imperatives of sustainability into me way back in the 1960s. What amazing foresight? Since then I have always been mindful of my personal environmental footprint. I am not militant but I continue to learn new ways to reduce that footprint.
Are you involved in any other environmental projects?
Recycling and reusing is so easy. At a local level my wife Jane and I pick up discarded aluminium drink cans when we walk our Siberian Huskies. I also have a couple of bins at work to collect empty cans that I to a scrap metal dealer to raise money for a local animal rescue shelter. This does not generate much income for Peninsula Animal Aid but last year we recycled over 12,000 cans that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.
Our other project is our small rangeland sanctuary in South Australia – “Tanami Rock”. The “Rock” is the safe home to a couple of small semi-permanent "mobs" of kangaroos, a few emus and several dozen threatened Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats. We only visit infrequently because the Rock” is over 2,000kms from our home in Brisbane but it is our bit of paradise to just enjoy the wildlife and serenity.