IATA calls for transition to enhanced GSE

Nick Careen, SVP Operations, Safety and Security at IATA

Nick Careen, SVP Operations, Safety and Security at IATA

Transitioning to enhanced ground support equipment (GSE) could significantly improve safety and cut ground damage caused by GSE, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Calling for a transition to enhanced GSE, which uses anti-collision and inching technology to improve accuracy and safety, an IATA study says that the annual cost of ground damage caused by GSE will double to $10 billion by 2035.

IATA came to the figure by looking at the direct costs of material and labour, temporary leasing, logistical and administrative expenses, and indirect costs of lost revenue, crew and passenger repositioning and compensation for delayed services.

The study found that most damage occurs when the aircraft is stationery and GSE strikes the fuselage, and that the damage rate is 10 times higher for widebody aircraft but regional, turboprop and narrowbody aircraft are 30% more prone to severe ground damage.

According to the IATA ground damage incident data base, belt-loaders, cargo-loaders, passenger stairs and passenger boarding bridges cause 40% of the total incidents.

IATA estimates that transitioning 75% of the global fleet of belt-loaders, cargo-loaders, passenger stairs and passenger boarding bridges to enhanced GSE would reduce the current damage rate by 42%.

Nick Careen, Senior Vice President Operations, Safety and Security at IATA, said: “Transitioning to Enhanced GSE with anti-collision technology is a no-brainer. We have proven technology that can improve safety. And with the cost of ground damage growing across the industry there is a clear business case supporting early adoption. The challenge now is to put together a roadmap so that all stakeholders are aligned on a transition plan.”

IATA also recommends that GSE fleet owners should have a plan to transition to enhanced GSE, ground handling service providers should be ready to integrate enhanced GSE into their fleets, airlines should work with ground handlers to use enhanced GSE, aircraft and GSE manufacturers should work together to ensure that GSE can operate safely and securely around aircraft and states should consider policies to encourage the use of enhanced GSE.

United invests in Natron Energy to electrify ground operations

IAH ramp marshall plane resizedUnited Airlines has made a strategic equity investment in sodium-ion battery manufacturer Natron Energy to help electrify ground operations.

The sodium-ion batteries have the potential to help United electrify airport ground equipment including pushback tractors and operations at the gate.

United has made investments in companies developing technology to reduce aircraft emissions but Natron is the first with the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint from United’s ground operations.

The airline has more than 12,000 pieces of motorised ground equipment, of which one third is electric.

Natron’s batteries can support operations through charging electric ground equipment, charging anticipated future electric aircraft, allowing airport operations to manage electricity demand and greatly improve resilience during inclement weather.

Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures, said: “Out of the gate, we primarily focused on technology designed to help reduce carbon emissions from our airplanes. Natron’s cutting-edge sodium-ion batteries presented an ideal opportunity to both potentially expand our sustainability investment portfolio to our ground operations, and to help make our airport operations more resilient.”

Colin Wessells, CEO of Natron Energy, added: “Our batteries provide the high power over short distances that ground service equipment needs, and unlike lithium-ion, Natron’s batteries are completely non-flammable and can be safely deployed into ground service operations.”

Natron says sodium-ion batteries have several advantages such as better output and cycle life than their lithium counterparts, and independent tests showed that they were non-flammable.

The minerals used in sodium-ion batteries are abundant worldwide and easily sourced, unlike lithium which is in short supply with demand expected to triple by 2025.

Memphis opens Consolidated De-Icing Facility

Memphis airport FedEx deicing facility opening resized Memphis International Airport’s Consolidated De-Icing Facility was opened on Tuesday 29 November, providing a centralised location to perform deicing operations.

The facility has opened in time for the holiday season, consisting of 3.3 million square feet of de-icing pads, which is large enough to de-ice 12 widebody cargo aircraft simultaneously.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contributed $174 million to the project and Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority paid $135 million for the facility at the home of FedEx Express’ largest air cargo sorting facility.

With the de-icing pads, message boards eliminate the need for audio communication with pilots, taxiway lead-in lights mean follow-me vehicles or marshallers are not needed and infrared cameras help position aircraft in the bays.

The pads offer more environmentally friendly de-icing procedures with aircraft not being de-iced at the gate, allowing them to depart sooner, reducing the need to be de-iced again.

They have a segregated drainage system and large-volume containers to collect de-icing fluid.

The fluid’s release is metered into the sanitary sewer system, where it breaks down and helps sanitise city wastewater.

The opening ceremony was attended by guests including US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims, Congressman Steve Cohen, City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, MSCAA Board Chairman Michael Keeney, and Memphis International Airport President and CEO Scott Brockman.

Buttigieg says, “This holiday season and every season, it’s critical that American families and businesses get the goods they need when they need them. Memphis International Airport is the biggest cargo airport in the country, and this innovative aircraft de-icing facility is one of the many ways we’re modernizing America’s supply chains.”

Richard Smith, President and CEO of FedEx Express adds, “The timing could not be better as FedEx enters the busy holiday season. This facility is a shining example of how we can help ensure our team members are safely operating throughout the winter season as we deliver outstanding service for our customers.”