Plus, the new building goes even one better, according to Tama Mohelnitzky, director of ground service maintenance.
“We actually have a wash bay,” she explains. “That’s a first. Plus, we also have a paint booth. So now we’re able to wash the equipment and paint it. Normally, if we wanted to paint, it meant sending it off to a vendor.”
Some of the newest pieces of GSE parked at the new shop might be from a year-old fleet of 38 electric tugs. The airline’s investment in electric equipment goes hand-in-hand with PHL’s larger goal of reducing its carbon footprint.
As part of its ongoing Green Airport Initiative, PHL partnered with US Airways to purchase the electric equipment. Through funding from the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) program, PHL installed the needed recharging stations and related infrastructure. PHL was awarded $15 million in VALE dollars to pay for this electrification project as well as fund other environmental programs.
To date, PHL has installed 116 charging units with 232 charging ports throughout the airport. PHL figures that the chargers and the use of electric GSE will reduce fuel consumption by more than 225,000 gallons annually to say nothing of the elimination of tons of harmful emissions.
In turn, US Airways also used the VALE funds to offset the difference in price between conventional and electric models. While the money certainly made the investment in electric GSE easier, Brewer says the new equipment means less maintenance and less downtime.
The only downside, of course, is that “you have to tie them up,” Brewer adds, meaning he has to take the electric GSE out of service for charging.
“A good 8-hour charge overnight is what you need,” he says, “but you can get by with 6 hours or try to fit in some ‘opportunity’ charges during the day when you can.”
With a solid overnight charge, Brewer says “the baggage tractors can last through two shifts.”
In the near-term, the airline plans to add to its eco-friendly GSE fleet.
“Between Express and Mainline, we have more than 70 pieces of electric GSE,” Mohelnitzky says. Seventy-three pieces to be exact. US Airways runs 38 Charlatte T-137 baggage tractors. US Airways Express operates 20 Express HBLE belt loaders and 15 Charger baggage tractors from Harlan Global Manufacturing.
“The more electric equipment we add,” Mohelnitzky says, “the more chargers we’ll need. The airport will have to keep up with us.”
The EPA has stepped onto the airfield with requirements to reduce emissions and the FAA's plan to assist airports may not spread to airlines, causing a buzz about the proposed program.