The FAA is drafting a guidance document of technical information based on the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions associated with gate turnaround of commercial aircraft using ground support equipment and auxiliary power units.
And as we all know, in response to air quality requirements, most of the major airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK and Atlanta-Hartsfield, have been converting ground support equipment to alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) using either CNG or electric.
However, whether we go with electric, CNG, biodiesel or fuel cell technology; will it possibly be a moot point, at least for certain aspects of GSE, somewhere down the road? Could the Boeing Company and Chorus Motors, who recently demonstrated an exploratory technology that would enable the airplanes to “move themselves” on the ground, leave GSE with no power at all? Maybe … but not anytime soon. Indeed, this past summer successful tests of an onboard electric motor attached to the nose wheel of a Boeing 767 proved that it may be a way to move aircraft in and around gates. According to an article in the Seattle Post, “Not only would airline costs be reduced, but such a system, if widely used, also would reduce airport emissions and eliminate the need for some airport equipment — those ubiquitous tow tugs that push airplanes back from the gate.”
In speaking with some of you, the consensus is although it’s an intriguing concept; there are too many unanswered questions and concerns such as: “What will the cost to the airline be?”, “What happens if the motor fails or fails to adequately provide the motive force in certain weather conditions?”, “Imagine the consequences if something happened to an aircraft at a busy hub and a dozen other planes were stacked up on the taxiway!”, etc. As Don Bundick, TLD states, “While the concept is indeed interesting, there is no commitment from Boeing as far as proceeding with the program, nor has any airline committed to buying them on future aircraft (the FAA still has to approve the whole thing.)”
It’s been estimated that it would take years before such a system could be designed, built, certified by the FAA and then be ready for commercial jets. According to Jim Renton, director of technology integration for Phantom Works, Boeing’s research and development arm, one of the unresolved issues is weight. Adding weight with a nose-wheel motor would mean that the plane would burn more fuel in flight, even if the fuel burn were reduced while the plane was on the ground.
Though it may be a bit premature for GSM to do an article about it at this stage, I felt it would be worth bringing the topic up, particularly since the product focus for this issue is Alternative Fuel Solutions.
You have until December 31st, 2005 to submit your nominations for Ground Support Leader of the Year. I hope you will show us that you are as excited about this new “tradition” as we are by sending the names of your GS Leader of the Year pick to [email protected] or by going to www.groundsupportmagazine.com As always, thanks for reading!