Burbank: All Charged Up

Several years in negotiations, two years in the making and ahead of schedule; Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport exemplifies the process of conversion from an entire diesel GSE fleet to zero-emissions vehicles.

The aviation industry has always been at the top of the list as a target by federal, state and local governments in the battle to reduce air pollution. One of the exceptional circumstances at Southern California Airports is that the negotiations between participating airlines and these agencies are based entirely upon voluntary agreements. Another is the fact that regionally, the airlines made a committment to the South Coast Air Quality Management District that the conversion of 30 percent of the ground service fleet would occur by 2010. In June 2003, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena (BGP) Airport Authority executed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding. In an effort to expand the scope of the project and accelerate the timetable, BGP staff negotiated an agreement with Southwest Airlines outlining the method of replacement for almost all of their fleet of GSE by the end of this year, five years ahead of the regional schedule.

End of story, right? No. Even more inspiring, during the initial discussions for bid last year, the five other airlines operating at Bob Hope, which include America West Airlines, United Airlines, the ground handling companies servicing Aloha and American Airlines as well as Alaska Airlines whose ground handler is America West; all expressed an interest in jumping on board. Based on this new and significant development, new bids were born, reviewed, restructured; and the resulting final bid of a $1.3 million electrical charging system allowing the airlines at Bob Hope Airport to use electrically powered ground service equipment was inaugurated in January of this year. “Originally, we were going to install the chargers on the gates used by Southwest, but the other airlines encouraged us to put chargers at all the gates and the Airport agreed,” says Charles Lombardo, president of the BGP Airport Authority.


$1.3 million is nothing to sneeze at, particularly given the current state of the industry. When a project such as this benefits literally everyone, it only makes sense for all parties involved to contribute. In exchange for nearly a complete conversion of Southwest’s GSE, which represents 70 percent of all of the GSE at Bob Hope Airport, the Authority originally agreed to provide the necessary charging equipment and associated infrastructure at each gate utilized by Southwest. But when the other airlines became involved, they encouraged the Authority to put chargers at all the gates. The cost of the electricity necessary to charge the vehicles and the cost of maintaining the chargers would be borne by the Airlines. “The Airport’s willingness to put in the infrastructure and chargers saved all the carriers several hundred thousand dollars and at the same time, encouraged Southwest to expedite the conversion to electrified equipment and go further than we might have otherwise,” notes Larry Laney, director of ground support at Southwest Airlines.

The surrounding community and airline passengers also reap the benefits of zero-emissions. Therefore, though initially funded by the Airport Capital Improvement accounts, it is planned that the project will be reimbursed by a future Passenger Facility Charge application. Lombardo states in his address at the official inauguaration of the charging system, “We are proud of this record, and very appreciative of the committment Southwest has made to help Bob Hope airport be a good neighbor.”


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