Improving Ground Operations

Highlights from AIE 2010


LAS VEGAS — The annual Aviation Industry Expo, put on by AIRPORT BUSINESS sister division Cygnus Expositions, featured educational seminars focused on improving ground support operations and adjusting to new technology. Key topics included alternative fuels, electric powered ground support equipment, and the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) safety audit for ground operations. Also, a look at some exhibitors from this year’s event.

Advancements continue to be made in the types of alternative technology available for use on the ramp. Explains Robert Freerks, director of product development for Rentech Inc., “We have a project now to make biomass into synthetic fuels in Rialto, California.

“All our fuels are certified ASTM quality; our diesel fuel is a drop-in that requires no changes in equipment or stage tanks. We meet all regulated emissions levels and the fuel we make in some applications reduces particulate emissions by 50 percent or more.”

According to Freerks, Rentech has entered into agreements with airlines in the Los Angeles Basin to use its alternative fuel in ground support equipment (GSE) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and potentially in Ontario. Major airline partners include American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, United, Continental, and more. Freerks says it’s a ‘green’ fuel, so credits can be taken for using that fuel. He adds that the company can make Rialto-like projects work at many locations where there is municipal waste to be converted into synthetic fuels.

Apart from alternative fuels, conference seminars also touched on alternative technologies, notably electric GSE. Comments Ryan Gibson, principle for GSE technical services for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), “One of the biggest obstacles that you find on the ramp in converting to electric isn’t necessarily the vehicle so much anymore, but the available power.”

One of the projects EPRI took on, explains Gibson, was to take an estimate of usage on average fleet sizes and fleet vehicle types, and put together the power usage so that if an operator is going to do an electric project, they know how much power to design into a new terminal, or a refit of an existing terminal.

In terms of electric GSE infrastructure requirements, Gibson relates that the power usage for:

1) A push tractor with two batteries requires 20 to 30 kW;

2) Container loaders with two batteries each requires 40 to 60 kW;

3) Belt loaders with one battery each require 20 kW; and

4) Baggage tractors with one battery each require 40 to 60 kW.

He adds, “If all the vehicles were plugged in at the same time, the gate would require a minimum of 120 to 170 kW; for a narrow-body gate, the requirement would be six chargers at some 40 kW.”

Safety Audits for Ground operations
Joseph Suidan, IATA’s assistant director for program implementation and auditing, says the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) is the only standardized and structured audit program for ground service providers available today.

Goals of the program, explains Suidan, are to improve operational safety in the airport ground operations environment, to reduce damage to aircraft and equipment, and to improve efficiency by reducing the number of redundant audits. “IATA’s major initiative is safety,” says Suidan.

“Why are we doing it?” he asks. “The fact is a global, experienced, fast-acting organization like IATA, which has some 800 audits of operational safety of airline carriers under its belt, is the only body that can plan and execute ISAGO.”

The ISAGO program is based on an internationally agreed-upon set of standards, remarks Suidan. The standards are centrally managed and continuously updated.

According to Suidan, ISAGO audits are conducted at both the headquarters and the airport operations levels of a ground handling company. The audit examines the spectrum of the ground service company and assesses the continuity of operational management and practices between headquarters and stations.

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