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.”

Azul awards Swissport handling contract at Viracopos

Swissport resizedBrazilian airline Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras has awarded Swissport to provide ground handling services at Viracopos International Airport.

Swissport will provide ramp handling, aircraft cleaning, and cargo handling in the eight year contract at the airport in Campinas, Sao Paulo state. The two companies already work together at eight airports in Brazil.

Rene Pascua, Head of Latin America and Caribbean at Swissport said: “Swissport has been serving Azul at several airports since the start of their operations in 2008, and we are honoured to earn their renewed trust and to serve them at their home base. Swissport is well prepared to support Azul’s growth in Brazil and beyond as it adds new aircraft.”

At Viracopos, Azul serves 66 locations across Latin America and a few in the US and Portugal, primarily operating narrow-body Airbuses, ATRs and Embraers and a few widebody Airbuses, and it has A350s on order.

Unifi handles Breeze Airways flights in West Palm Beach

Breeze Airways resizedUnifi has extended its partnership with Breeze Airways to handle services in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Since Breeze Airways’ inaugural flight in May 2021, Unifi has been providing services at several airports and will support six flights a week at West Palm Beach International Airport.

Gautum Thakkar, CEO of Unifi says: “We’ve been a proud partner of Breeze Airways since they started. As their largest aviation services provider, we are thrilled to support their Seriously Nice™ approach to their customers by delivering strong performance across all measurable categories.”

In addition to West Palm Beach, Unifi also provides Breeze with ground handling services in Akron, Ohio; Bentonville/Fayetteville, Arkansas; Hartford, Connecticut; Huntsville, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Norfolk, Virginia; Providence, Rhode Island; San Antonio, Texas; Tampa, Florida; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Polar Air Cargo and WFS sign contract in Los Angeles

PolarAirCargoaircraftdeparting resizedPolar Air Cargo has expanded its partnership with Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) through a long-term contract at Los Angeles International Airport.

WFS started providing warehouse handling services from December 2021 and will also manage scheduled and ad-hoc freighter services for Atlas Air from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is one of Polar’s biggest stations in the US and the airline has expanded its footprint with a second warehouse totalling more than 230,000 square feet.

Guido DiGiandomenico, Vice President of Sales in North America for WFS says: “In Los Angeles, thanks to the hard work of our local WFS team, we have earned a solid reputation for providing quality cargo handling services in what is a challenging marketplace. We look forward to supporting Polar’s continued growth at this very important west coast gateway.”

Fenix Logistix invests in Irish operations

FLI_GHI001_ElectricPushback resizedFenix Logistix has invested in its Irish firm, Fenix Logistix Ireland to develop business opportunities in Ireland, the UK and throughout Europe.

The Dublin-based ground handling and logistics firm, Fenix Logistix Ireland (FLie) was established during one of the most challenging times in aviation history and will meet the needs of the continually changing commercial aviation market, focusing on professional staff and modern technology.

The Seattle headquartered parent company says the investment will strength Fenix’s brand and along with sharing knowledge and core competencies from its US operations, Fenix in Ireland will enjoy synergies of multi-national operations.

FLie started 2022 with the acquisition of RED Handling UK from Norwegian Airlines, which became a wholly owned subsidiary on 1 January.

RED Handling, based at London’s Gatwick Airport was established in 2016 as a test model to provide Norwegian a dedicated handling company for its largest hub outside Scandinavia.

Unifi takes on aha! Airlines at 10th station

Unifi-Team-aha-Airlines resizedUnifi has started serving aha! Airlines at its 10th station, starting operations at Palm Springs International Airport on 3 January.

The ground handler provides aha! with ground handling operations and passenger services for over 50 flights a week.

The two companies started their partnership on 24 October at Reno-Tahoe International Airport helping ExpressJet Airlines relaunch flight operations for its leisure brand.

Gautam Thakkar, CEO of Unifi says: “By providing full ground handling services to 10 of their 11 locations, we’re happy to be their largest ground-handling partner. We’re committed to providing aha! the high-level service Unifi is known for and strengthening our relationship into the future.”

Unifi provides aha! with ground handling services at Bakersfield, Fresno, Ontario and Palm Springs in California, at Eugene, Medford and Redmond in Oregon, Pasco/Tri-Cities and Spokane in Washington, and Reno in Nevada.

From the magazine: Going Underground with Aircraft Towing Systems

ATS artist impressionMaking aircraft more efficient is very important for improving sustainability but what can be done when they are on the ground? Deputy Editor James Muir spoke to Aircraft Towing Systems (ATS) World Wide about its game-changing proposal.

As aviation grows, so will its contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions. Aircraft are considerably more efficient than they used to be but they still use significant amounts of fuel and emit harmful gases. According to the report Decarbonizing Aviation: Cleared for Take Off, almost 10% of emission reductions can be achieved by fixing inefficiencies when aircraft are taxiing and waiting to take off.

Aircraft Towing Systems (ATS) World Wide has developed a towing system that could not only save the airlines considerable amounts of money through reducing fuel use, but also make operations safer. Its system works on a rail, with the pilot taxiing onto the towing system and once the nose landing gear is secure, they can turn the main jet engines off and relax. In a pre-engineered pattern, the towing system, which runs along a rail embedded in an underground channel, then tows the aircraft to the gate and back to the runway.

It has three primary components, a channel in the ground covered in steel plates, a pullcar in the ground powered by an electric car motor that drives hydraulic pumps driving hydraulic motors that clamp on a monorail in the bottom of the channel and software. The pullcar is connected through the cover plates to the tow dolly. The tow dolly looks like a round disc with ramps on each end for the aircraft’s nose landing gear to drive upon. Then the pilot shuts off the engines, which is “when all the good stuff starts happening”, in the words of Vince Howie, CEO of ATS World Wide. Fuel is saved, emissions are not emitted, noise is reduced and the aircraft is being guided significantly reducing the chance of collisions.

He adds: “The system is fully automated, so it knows what type of aircraft is loaded into the tow dolly, then takes the aircraft to the correct gate and knows where to stop so you don’t overshoot the jet bridge.”

Howie has experience of overshooting, taking a flight recently that overshot the jet bridge slightly. It took 27 minutes before they were pushed back about a metre so the jet bridge would line up.
The system automates several manual processes and optimises taxiway and gate selection. Howie has been working with Oklahoma State University for six years doing development work. They calculated throughput at airports could increase by up to 30% using the ATS system. Several airports are interested for this reason alone.

Howie spent 29 years in the US Air Force then served as the Aerospace and Defense Director for the state of Oklahoma working directly for the Governor. The idea came about at the 2015 Paris Air Show where he met Stan Malicki who had an innovative proposal to move aircraft around airports. Aircraft Towing Systems World Wide LLC was formed in 2016 and Oklahoma State University was put on contract to develop the idea that same year. Two years ago, the project needed working full-time so Howie left his job at the state and filled that role.

Malicki had been working on the idea since the early 2000s after he returned to his native Poland having lived for a long time in West Germany, where he became a successful businessman. A friend of his, a 747 pilot, was complaining about the amount of fuel being burnt on the ground. So Malicki gave the problem to some Sukhov helicopter engineers now working for him in Warsaw, they developed a similar concept using motors above ground and run by belts.

To put the system in place, ATS would run simulation models looking at aircraft traffic flows at the airport and how to optimise everything. Howie says: “If airports have the complete system, it would have tracks running from every gate to taxiways and ramp areas with return loops. They would have a pullcar and tow dolly for every gate plus about 10% extra pullcars. We would calculate the maximum number of aircraft on the ground at any one time and that’s the number of pullcars an airport would need.”

The fuel savings would be considerable. Howie says that around 80% of airline fleets are composed of Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s type aircraft, which burn around nine gallons of fuel per minute during taxi. Average taxi times at US airports are between 16 and 27 minutes, and with up to 900,000 movements at large airports, ATS predicts fuel savings could be almost $500m. Also, towing aircraft places less stress on the airframe than using the throttles to move aircraft.

Howie says: “The enticement for airports comes from saving the airlines fuel, the airport becomes a good partner in the community because they are reducing emissions and noise, also increasing efficiency by improving throughput. The airport would recoup the cost by charging a 50% landing fee based on fuel savings of that particular aircraft during taxiing. It would be a 50/50 cost share and savings between the airline saving 50% on fuel during taxi and the airport charging 50% landing fee.”

Interested in reading more? The full article was published in the November/December issue of Ramp Equipment News, click here to read the digital edition.

ATS has released a video showing how the system works, which can be viewed here.

Amazon facility in San Bernardino faces green legal challenge

Rob Bonta, Attorney General of California

Rob Bonta, Attorney General of California

The Attorney General of California has filed a petition demanding the challenge against the air cargo facility used by Amazon at San Bernardino airport is reheard.

The $200m Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval in 2019 and Amazon was announced as a tenant in May 2020, opening its facility in April 2021.

In his petition before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Attorney General Rob Bonta says the area near the airport is home to low-income communities and communities of colour who already suffer disproportionately from air pollution-related illnesses.

He says that despite recognising that the project will add at least one tonne of air pollution per day into the already heavily polluted South Coast Air Basin due to dozens of additional flights and thousands of truck trips, and over the objections of the Attorney General and local community, the FAA approved the project.

In a statement, Bonta says: “It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have. You can’t cut corners when the health and well-being of our communities is at stake.”

He adds: “As the People’s Attorney, I’m committed to lifting up the voices of communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. The fact is: communities like the one impacted by this Project in San Bernardino are all too often overburdened and under-resourced. These communities, who are already experiencing health harms from pollution, deserve to be protected to the fullest extent of the law, and through our Bureau of Environmental Justice, we’re committed to seeing this fight through.”

The 658,000 square foot air cargo facility has parking positions for 14 aircraft and when construction started in August 2020, it was announced that 1,700 new permanent jobs would be created in the first year of operation, rising to 3,800 when the facility becomes fully operational.

The Attorney General says the panel should reconsider their decision because the burden of proof was not applied properly, the environmental analysis was flawed, and the decision raises questions about government transparency and the ability of the public to protect themselves from environmental harm caused by federal agency action.

LATAM delivers 200 million Covid-19 vaccines

Foto Carguero_LATAM Cargo resizedLATAM Airlines Group has delivered more than 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines free of charge through its Solidarity Plane programme.

The vaccines were transported within Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru through the initiative, which makes LATAM’s connectivity and capacity available for the benefit of South America.

Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM Airlines Group says: “We have been working to overcome the pandemic for a year and nine months, and it is with great pride and thanks to the efforts of all our collaborators that we exceed 200 million vaccines transported free of charge today. We will remain committed and available to support the well-being of the people of South America.”

In addition to transporting vaccines, more than 1,860 organs and tissues; 3,323 health professionals attended urgent Covid-19 cases; 657 patients with urgent medical needs; 17 stem cells for blood cancer patients; and more than 1,100 tonnes of cargo has also been transported under the programme.

1 2 3 4 5 29