The Confidence Factor

How telemetry, technology and training can improve deicing performance.


Jeff Walsh remembers one winter day back when he worked deicing operations for American Airlines at O’Hare International Airport.

“I’m up in the tower and one of the tower coordinators tells me, ‘Jeff, this guy’s been deicing a plane for an hour,’ ” Walsh says. Sure enough, Walsh looks out from his vantage point to a lone Super 80 at a gate.

“It’s the last airplane sitting there, and there’s a river of red glycol going four gates down the terminal,” he adds.

After talking with the deicer, Walsh found out something he’s been trying to address ever since. There’s a lot at stake when deicing aircraft. Most deicing operators want to make sure the plane is perfectly clear of ice as if it were August at ORD rather than February. And with only the best of intentions to get the job right, many operators end up wasting too much fluid.

“We never ever want to jeopardize the safety of the deicing process,” Walsh explains, “but there are operators that just use more fluid than necessary.”

What they need, he says, is a jolt of confidence to know the proper way to perform deicing effectively and efficiently.

Walsh, who was recently made executive vice president, worldwide sales and service for Global Ground Support, Olathe, KS, thinks his company may have developed a way to bolster that confidence through a combination of telemetry, technology and training.

 

THE QUEST

Walsh has always taken an interest in technology and training.

When he worked for American Airlines for 11 years between 1993 and 2004, Walsh tinkered with a number of patched-together tech odds and ends in a quest to build one information system that could make better sense of his deicing operations.

“But the technology just didn’t exist,” he says. “And what was available was very expensive and still very limited in the information we could track.”

So after Walsh joined Global in 2004, developing a better information system for the busy deicing manager he used to be was definitely on his check list.

However, the first product Walsh helped create was the company’s Deicing Simulator, a computer-based training simulation system that provides an operator with the ability to practice and take a “performance test” while performing a virtual aircraft deicing event.

Globe’s full-featured deicing simulator allows the user to deice and anti-ice different aircraft under a wide range of weather conditions. Two joysticks control all boom, cab and nozzle movements with the exact speed and commands as the actual Global enclosed cab controls out on the ramp.

Only after developing a number of other products, including a patented deicing blending system, did Walsh turn his attention to what eventually became known as MIDAS - Management, Information, Database and Accounting System.

 

TELEMETRY

MIDAS essentially allows anyone with approved access to view live data on any of their deicing trucks with any Internet-connected device on a “fleet dashboard,” which features various pages dedicated to separate bits of data. The system can be purchased on new vehicles or retrofitted on any manufacturer’s equipment.

The program’s most basic function is as a truck telemetry system.

“The system tells users where the trucks are and the current status of each vehicle,” Walsh explains.

In addition to utilizing the output from the truck’s flow meters, MIDAS takes advantage of all of the other system outputs, and uploads that information to the database as well.

The system uploads data from the on-board systems that include the following:

  • Chassis engine.
  • Auxiliary engine
  • Cab and truck heaters.
  • Fluid levels from all tanks.
  • GPS location.

“As a result of this real-time information, MIDAS also functions as a dispatching system,” Walsh says. “Managers sitting in the tower can dispatch these two trucks to this flight and then these other two trucks to that flight,” Walsh says.

Any maintenance issues can also be red-flagged and provide maintenance crews with information to troubleshoot remotely.

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