GSE Expo/Seminar Review

July 1, 2004
Regrets!! That's what I have. Regrets!! Halls filled with attendees and exhibitors milling around booths of GSE Expo and AS3 attributed to the success of the trade show, which also held the Flight Chiefs Meeting and Joint Panel. Add PAMA and NATA Technical Sessions and Industry Overviews and it was one heck of a show.

June/July 2004

Why, you ask? I have just returned from an outstanding, successful GSE EXPO during Aviation Industry Week. Why would I have regrets?

My answer is simple. "There were not enough people there."

You say: "That is ridiculous! There were 6,000 in attendance, almost 500 Exhibitors; it was the biggest and best EXPO ever."

I reply. "I know all that, but I regret that there were many fine members of the GSE community that were not able to come and had to stay home to run their airline or FBO. I regret that there were Exhibitors who settled for a little booth instead of bringing their wonderful new GSE for all to admire and buy."

You say: "Prill, you are greedy."

I say, "No, I just want all to share in the joy and satisfaction that comes from participating in the GATHERING OF THE CLAN. The annual event that recognizes and celebrates the men and women who design, build and operate the equipment that makes it possible for airlines and Air Forces to get off the ground. People who work 'behind the scenes,' never applauded; but without whom the curtain would never go up. Next year, I want 10,000 attendees and a Parade of GSE down the Las Vegas Strip; led by the Editor riding on a white bag tractor.

I know that is probably asking too much. But, seriously, I had such a good time at the EXPO, seeing old friends and new equipment that I would like to share it with even more of our readers. I had the opportunity to meet and greet the US Department of Defense Joint Panel on Aviation Support Equipment and the World Wide US Air Force Flight Chiefs Conference.

The Flight Chiefs met on Tuesday, May 18, 2004, at the AS3/GSE Expo trade show in Las Vegas.

What a great bunch the Flight Chiefs are! During their biannual meeting, the men and women who run the aerospace ground equipment in the Air Force from all the Commands around the world as well as from the National Guard and Reserves get an opportunity not only to be brought up-to-date on developments but to visit the EXPO. Colonel Dave Nakayama, the director of support equipment and vehicle maintenance, made a special trip from his headquarters at Warner Robins AFB in Georgia to open and address their meeting. It was a pleasure to meet him and I hope that we will be able to continue to support him and the procurement managers at Warner Robins and Eglin Air Force bases who are striving to get equipment out to the warfighters of the Air Force.

On page 32 you will find a summary of the presentations made by the outstanding panels during the EXPO, but I want to focus on the theme of all our sessions. "THE FUTURE." I don't remember whether it was Aristotle or Casey Stengle that said, "predicting anything is tough, but especially if it is about the future." But, even though many of us would prefer the past, the future is where we all must live. We had some great talent doing the forecasting and I wish that I could say that all of the forecasts were rosy. But they were not.

We started out the EXPO with a Monday evening session with Dr. Paul MacCready, the Founder and Chairman of Aerovironment Inc. Dr. MacCready is, in my opinion, one of the few geniuses in the world of aerospace.

Attendees on the crowded AS3/GSE show floor.

The father of human powered flight, he is a strong proponent of our designing much more fuel-efficient vehicles recognizing that the fossil fuels that we now depend on are, in his words, "not renewable in the human time scale." His organization has been developing electric drive vehicles powered with solar cells. The most amazing is their NASA Helios, which flew over Kauai up to an altitude of 76,271 feet. We can count on the sun. It has been providing energy to earth for about 5 billion years without a malfunction. Dr. MacCready is very high on the possibility of developing even better batteries, probably lithium, and his company is a leader in the field of fast charging equipment. We in the GSE business will be among the first to transition to more fuel efficient and cleaner power.

I was particularly interested in his prediction that we would be using unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and even delivery of cargo. In the predictions that I made in this magazine in the Year 2000 issue, I forecasted that by 2020 our aircraft industry would have started the design of a cargo aircraft, several times larger than the B-747 or even the A380 and that would be unmanned. The air traffic management systems would be able to move these aircraft safely from airports that would be able to handle them. Airbus Industrie has already had a first look at a manned version of such an aircraft and the US Air Force use of the Global Hawk and other unmanned aircraft shows what can be done.

Other predictions were also warnings of change. John Goglia in his Keynote Address and Mort Beyer's Panel foresee tough times for those companies that cannot meet competition in a changing world. The so-called "low cost" airlines and the acceptance of the regional jet aircraft threaten the continuance of the major carriers. Continuing turmoil of wrestling for airport gates and changing use of hub airports where passenger handling, complicated by security concerns, is already a problem. Peter Muller's Panel had fascinating possible solutions to some of them. For the GSE providers, there was good news in almost all of those discussions. For example, the new start-up at Dulles, Independence Air, will completely equip each gate with GSE rather than try to move it from gate to gate. Bob Arnott's Panel covered new regulations and requirements, the FAA's programs and extensive material on new fuels and improved filters for present equipment. The presenters will be happy to provide more information.

An indication of how important the EXPO has become to those organizations involved with alternative power solutions was the decision of both EPRI and WestStart-CALSTART to convene concurrent meetings on electric powered GSE and the hybrid truck. I wish that I had more space to elaborate on these sessions.

My final comment about the EXPO, "If you were not there, you should have been. But be there with the rest of us in 2005. Mark the date in you Calendar - March 8 to 10, the new Sands Expo & Convention Center."

Keynote speaker for the show John Goglia, current NTSB member, focused his remarks on how aviation looks and how it needs to change. According to Goglia, this industry has felt the pain since 9/11 but things are looking up. The passenger load is back, however the airlines still can't make money. The business model has changed therefore everyone will have to change as well. For instance, the airlines won't go back to paying for ground handling services. They will want to keep the "rock bottom" prices they are at.

Goglia touched on the airport concerns that have developed as well. Revenues in several areas such as parking and even pay phones have gone down. From this time forward, the industry needs to do more than just lower costs. As Goglia states, "We need to look at what we do, why we do it that way and is there a better way; and we need to do it collectively."

The Future of the Business of Air Transport ground support session on Tuesday started with a discussion of low-cost air carriers.

William Lange of Independence Air talked about his companies move from a partner of United and Delta, to an "independent" entity restructuring into what has come-to-be-known as the low-cost airline model. With Washington Dulles as the local hub, Independence Air's model includes low fares and internet ticketing; using its own aircraft, people and gates; a low overhead and altered routes and scheduling to increase use and reduce fixed costs.

What ground support equipment will the new Independence Air purchase? There will be a tug, lav-cart, water cart, and whatever other equipment is needed at each gate, to reduce the accidents from handlers rushing around trying to get the equipment where it's needed, as well as trim the down-time associated with equipment not being immediately available.

Vaughn Cordle, chartered financial analyst, used revenue and expense formulas to show a trend for airlines, namely that legacy airlines cannot compete with the low cost carriers. Low-cost airlines have lower labor and non-labor costs, which aids in their lower fares to increase traffic, taking it away from the legacy airlines. Another major issue the legacy airlines are dealing with is the age of their work force. The retirees get pensions, which normally aren't included in labor costs. The continued use of pension relief programs will cause monetary difficulties.

Morten S. Beyer, chairman and C.E.O of MBA (Morten, Beyer & Agnew Inc.) asked if our airport security really made us secure? He mentioned how the "hassle factor" of "zealous security efforts" has reduced short-haul air travel by 25 percent since 9/11. The FAA reports that 15 percent of major airports are operating beyond capacity and within the next decade the 43 majors will be overloaded. Budget and environmental restrictions will make airport and runway expansion increasingly difficult.

Beyer also mentioned the success of the low-cost carriers over the US Classic airlines, perhaps out-carrying the majors in less than 20 years. He foresees a shrinkage in the number of world airlines as international carriers form alliances and code-shares.

Future aircraft will be designed to decrease weight and range, run on alternative fuels, be flown with automation and be manufactured by international companies (no longer dominated by the US).

On Wednesday morning, The Future of the Airport: how to manage passengers and ground support session was a little brighter. Security was the main theme of this session, with new technologies either on the market right now or in the near future.

Bruce DeWitte, product manager at Northrop Grumman Corp. focused on infrastructure protection, or the need for more eyes watching the airports. Video cameras will be used in an increased number of restricted (and nonrestricted) areas, said DeWitte, but guards can only look at so many screens effectively. Northrop Grumman's solution processes digital video by detecting and classifying moving objects and their behavior patterns. AlertVideo is an addition to existing video surveillance systems alerting the watch-stander to when, where (which camera) and what (the threat detected) for appropriate response.

It can detect such situations as abandoned objects, a car that parks without passengers exiting, a person "tailgating" an employee to get into a restricted area without a badge, perimeter intrusion (even distinguishing between humans and animals), etc.

Security will be at the hands of airport employees according to Ira Tabankin with TriCentric Technologies, who discussed LCM Technologies, up and coming product called the C.A.T.C.H.E.R. It is the only portable device that is a full MS XP based PC, in a small, two pound package with the following features: hardened case, Mil Std 810-F; ability to access video servers/camera/its own digital cameras to record/view/playback; take stills/watermarked video in normal/low light or IR; video conferencing, e-mail or Internet; built in biometrics (NIST approved fingerprint sensor); 6.4-inch sunlight readable display, touch screen; long life battery (8 plus hours); forms generator and much more.

Benny Asklof, ATS Denver Inc., discussed WebCore, a web-based spatial (GIS-like) software that facilitates the management and operation of airports. In addition to facilitating instantaneous access to airport maps and plans, WebCore can be used for all airport functions including maintenance, operations and security. It can be used to track inventory and develop work orders. WebCore puts spatial and database information in the hands of any authorized user.

Asklof explained how it can manage alarms generated by AlertVideo and automatically alert security guards equipped with CATCHERs. When the three systems are used together they become much more powerful.

Finally, Peter Muller, associate at Olsson Associates, described how personal rapid transit (PRT) could revolutionize airports. In this system transportation pods (T-pods) function like on-demand taxis. They automatically follow guideways and deliver passengers to their chosen destination without ever stopping. A study for London's Heathrow Airport found PRT cost 40 percent less to operate than the shuttle bus system, also saving 60 percent of passenger travel times.

Muller said PRT costs about half as much as automated people movers (APM), also alleviating crowds, an important security consideration.

Able to be installed in existing parking lots and airport concourses, airport operations and security could benefit if PRT incorporated the technologies presented by other members of the panel.

It could allow remote concourses (and runways) and permit the terminal building to function as a centralized waiting/concessions area.

The environmental impact of aircraft was again addressed in Thursday's The Future of the Environment, Energy and Fuels session, but this time the angle of attack had ground support equipment in the cross hairs.

Bob Arnott disseminated the EPA's Final Nonattainment Designation for 8-Hour Ozone, highlighting areas of the country with ground ozone problems. Many of these are areas with major airline/cargo and/or military operations. States encompassing these areas will need to prepare a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to lower VOCs (volitile organic compund) and NOx (nitrogen oxides). Many emission control methods are already in use and what's left to change remains in the aircraft themselves or the equipment that supports them. Arnott explains that the process to change aircraft is so long and involved, that ground support equipment is the logical answer to this need for emission reduction. He detailed California and Texas SIPs.

Lynne Pickard with the FAA explained the goals of the FAA to reduce noise and emissions for GSE. Pickard said that the roughly 72,000 powered pieces of GSE are 80 percent gas or diesel, with 15 percent being electric or AFV (alternative fuel vehicles). This could be improved. She also detailed the ILEAV (inherently low emissions airport vehicles) pilot program the FAA has been offering. It gives grants for GSE equipment with lower emission and alternative fuels.

The FAA's vision 100 includes air quality goals that would continue this process of giving grants for the implementation of lower emission GSE. The critical mass of offending units in the nonattainment areas from the EPA report would include any facilities that have 25 or more pieces of GSE manufactured in 1999 or early.

The alternative fuels were covered by William (Bill) Mitchell, manager of the E Diesel Project for the Illinois Corn Growers Association, ex-John Deere, who highlighted the use of ethanol (made from corn or any high sugar/starch material), which has a high short-term renewability unlike fossil fuels. Major concerns for alternative fuels include safety, emission properties, performance properties, reliability/durability properties, heating value, viscosity, oxygen and carbon content, pour point, etc. He compared straight ethanol, ethanol-gas (gasohol) and ethanol-diesel (e diesel) mixtures on their values in these areas.

Kevin Brown, assistant technology manager for Engine Control Systems not only mentioned the environmental hazards of emissions, but brought concern up a notch when he discussed the effects on employees exposed to these emissions over long periods of time. Studies have found long-term health effects, which would produce increased cost to cover heath care and litigation.

Brown strategized alternative fuels, a turn-over in fleets to newer equipment or at least newer, less polluting engines, and retrofitting existing equipment. He described the ECS product line, which includes particulate filter systems to remove soot and prevent backpressure backlash; diesel oxidation catalyst system purifiers and CNG & gasoline catalyst systems.