Love Triangle

It started over 30 years ago with a simple drawing of a triangle on a cocktail napkin; today Southwest Airlines, headquartered at Love Field in Dallas, is the 4th largest major airline in the US. March 2004 With his entrepreneurial spirit...

old electric lavatory vehicle

Fuel consortiums have been a very popular methodology to build storage facilities, unfortunately many carriers are no longer in a financial position to be able to do this. Southwest has the ability to make the capital investment in the infrastructure of fuel storage facilities that are built and operated for the mutual benefit of everyone on the airport and has stepped up to be the banker for some of these facilities where it makes sense. "Our primary objective is to get it built and then secondarily how do we do it cost effectively," declares Hipp.

One of the new Southwest Airlines stationary fueling carts

Out with Jet A, in with??
Glenn Hipp and Larry Laney, Director of Ground Support at Southwest, remember the days when fueling GSE was less complicated and less expensive; the days when Jet A not only fueled jets but just about everything else on the ramp. Those days are gone. "In 1999," Hipp claims, "The Environmental Protection Agency said you can't do that anymore, because jet fuel could have a very high sulfur content so you have to switch to diesel;it was problematic to the industry." Indeed, the EPA targeted airports for more aggressive emission control programs given the fact that the air pollution emissions were growing as airports continued to expand to meet the increasing travel demand. It was determined that GSE represents one of three (aircraft and ground access vehicles being the other two) groups of mobile emission sources that contribute a small but significant share of the hydrocarbon (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (Nox) and particulate matter (PM) emitted in metropolitan areas.

With no designated diesel trucks or diesel storage at the airport, switching from Jet A to diesel was much easier said than done according to Hipp and Laney and they had to work very hard to figure out how to make it work economically. "The airlines were left in a kind of predicament figuring out how we are going to get diesel fuel [on the ramp] and how we are going to accommodate these rules," says Hipp. "We scrambled to get everybody moved over to diesel as soon as we could, then almost simultaneously the switch started over to electric."

Allied Aviation Inspectors

The majority of conventionally powered GSE can be either converted to or replaced by GSE powered by alternative fuels such as LPG, CNG or electric. Southwest opted to go electric due to a number of factors. Besides getting a "big bang for their buck" by electing to go electric, Laney stated that rather than switch to the new generation gas engines that have catalytic converters, it made better sense to go with electric because the majority of the GSE that runs the most hours could be converted. Both Laney and Hipp continue to work to improve the electric technology. "There is a lot of engineering that goes into it," says Hipp. "You need a lot of power. You have to have these really expensive and large recharge stations to recharge the batteries." In trying to find a way to do this economically as well as environmentally, Laney is currently working with manufacturers of fast charging equipment and batteries such as ETEC (Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation), Aerovironment, Inc and Excide, to discuss improving the technology.

Spread the Love
When I walked through the doors at Southwest's Headquarters, I thought they were giving tours to a group of students because everyone was wearing jeans. I soon found out that this is Southwest's dress code for its employees everyday. Why? Because Herb Kellerher told them that if they kept service at a certain level for an extended period of time, they would be rewarded. As an organization that has won the Triple Crown (best on-time record, best baggage handling and fewest customer complaints) more than 30 times, boasts a low attrition rate, is environmentally proactive and reported its 31st year of consecutive profitability (a feat unmatched in the airline industry), Southwest Airlines has every reason to spread the love and continue the "affair" it's having with its customers and its employees.

Glenn Hipp says it best, "I am really proud to be a part of an industry that is changing so rapidly and I feel like we are really out in front of the group doing that."

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