As Mallaghan celebrates its 30th anniversary, Director Niall Mallaghan looks back at the organisation’s impressive journey to establishing itself as an innovative leader at the forefront of the GSE industry.
The very beginning…
“The roots of the Mallaghan family are here in Dungannon, County Tyrone. My brother Ronan and I were brought up by our parents in a house in Donaghmore, very close to where the Mallaghan factory is situated now,” said Niall.
“My father, Terry, had forged a successful career in civil and mechanical engineering. Our father was one-of-a-kind, he was always thinking and looking at different ways of doing things. Innovation was in his blood. My father was a man who never stopped working or thinking so although ironic, it is not surprising his best idea came to him when he and my mother were at an airport about to jet off on holiday.
“On that particular occasion, he noticed the belt conveyor taking bags and equipment on and off the aircraft. He immediately got to thinking how much more efficient it would be if one machine could both load and unload. And from that thought, Mallaghan was born.
“He used his mechanical engineering experience to develop the LBT90 – a luggage and baggage transporter – in 1990. This model replaced two machines on the airfield and is still developed by Mallaghan today.
“This first machines were purchased by Braathens SAFE, a Norwegian airline, and Servisair started using it in several airports across the UK including Birmingham and Edinburgh,” reminisced Niall.
Diversification and growth throughout the 90s
“My dad had a fascination with aircraft and flying, and throughout the 1990s he really made his mark on the industry completely revolutionising how things were done all around the aircraft before she took to the skies.
“I remember a request came from Belfast Harbour Airport, now George Best Belfast City Airport, for the provision of a medi-lift for narrow body aircraft. My father took on the challenge adding a cabin and a rear tail lift on an existing machine.
“This then evolved further when a double scissor was added meaning it could service larger, higher aircraft such as the iconic B747 jumbo jet and we still manufacture lots of these units each year.”
Niall continued, “By the mid-1990s, a brand was being built. Mallaghan products were disrupting the industry and becoming popular at airports across the UK, but demand was also now coming from the Middle East.
“Dad recognised he was now building a brand with the potential for global expansion. He started to take on more staff and invest in R&D to expand the product range.
“The business was operating from our current Dungannon Headquarters but the factory doubled in size in the 90s to facilitate increasing demand. Before long, toilet and water trucks, self-propelled aircraft stairs and then catering trucks – which became a major line of sales – were being manufactured. Our catering trucks have now been delivered to more than 100 countries and are operational in every continent.”
The new millennium
“With the turn of the century came further growth. Not only was there further product development and expansion at our Headquarters but we soon opened sales offices in Berlin, Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore.
“We then marketed the newly launched aircraft de-icer in Europe, and capitalised on opportunities within Canada,” said Niall.
“At the same time dad unfortunately became very poorly. Ronan and I took the reins of the organisation, acutely aware of what large shoes we had to fill, while dad battled with his illness at home with our mother.
“After my father’s untimely passing, for Ronan and I there was only desire to further grow the business and our product range. Our dad had created this incredible organisation that serves a very solid purpose and we were determined to realise its strong potential for further growth.
“Mallaghan is very much a family business, our dad treated people with compassion, and Ronan and I have further built upon that culture of caring for each other. Whether it is staff, customers or businesses within the local community.
“Passion for what you do can’t be taught or bought, but it can be inherited, and I am truly grateful Ronan and I inherited that passion and drive for innovating aviation from our dad. He was an extremely special man not only to us, but to his customers and to our staff, and we are so proud to continue his legacy at Mallaghan.”
And here’s to the future
“By its very nature, aviation demands innovation”, said Niall. “And for us, we are always looking ahead, what are airlines and airports going to need next?”
“Within the last two years we have opened a second factory in Atlanta, USA and have launched the Árbus 50W Airport Bus. The Árbus has taken our offering to a completely different area of the airport meaning we can now support our partners on the ground in more places than just at the plane.
“Our bus, which is one of the highest capacity airport buses in existence, was long in the making and we were very lucky to win a contract from our longstanding partner Ryanair for the first order.
“After years of development and hard work from all the team at Mallaghan, I had the privilege of unveiling the bus for the very first time at inter airport Europe 2019 in Munich in front of hundreds of people. That was an extremely proud moment for me, and for the company as we marked yet another milestone in our diversification.”
Speaking of the future, Niall said “Mallaghan is a company which has grown continuously over the last 30 years and we have plans to keep growing.
“The aviation landscape has somewhat changed within the last 9 months but our goals and commitment to innovation for aviation have not. We will continue to expand our product range with a firm focus on the electrification of GSE enabling a green turnaround of aircraft and the further development of autonomous aircraft equipment.
“In what has been an extraordinary year for us all, I would like to thank you all for your commitment and loyalty now, over the last 30 years, and into the future as we work together to further improve and innovate ground handling within aviation.