The Electric Switch

Guinault-Lebrun’s air-vconditioning units can be mounted close to the terminal – up to four hoses can be used to pipe air to large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380. (All images via author)

Thomas Withington spoke to Guinault-Lebrun about the increasing use of fixed electrical ground power.

One of Guinault-Lebrun’s LDX-10 air-conditioning units seen here at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. This equipment has temperature sensors so it can automatically adjust its output according to the weather conditions.

While the greenhouse gas emissions of aircraft engines are squarely under the spotlight of environmental campaigners, a similar focus is now being directed towards the levels of pollution caused by airliners’ integral Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) which provide electrical power and air conditioning while on the ground.  Airliners burn between 253 and 616lbs (115 – 280kg) of fuel per hour when running their APUs and this costs airlines between €62-€260 (US$79-$332) per hour, not to mention the additional maintenance costs incurred by using the APU.
Airports around the world are introducing measures to reduce or eliminate the use of aircraft APUs.  On July 12 France’s Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development implemented new regulations, effective from October 28, 2012, minimising the use of APUs at Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports in Paris.  The new rules prevent the operation of an APU until ten minutes before departure (to start the engine), and for longer than five minutes after arrival at the stand before a Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) unit is connected to the aircraft.  At stands where FEGPs and Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) are not available, the regulations stipulate that aircraft can not use their APUs for longer than one hour, or for aircraft weighing over 140 tonnes up to 1hr 20mins.
The growing trend for airports around the world to restrict APU use means there is increasing demand for FEGP and PCA units to equip parking stands and gates.  Guinault-Lebrun, a Franco-Belgian company, provides a number of FEGP and PCA machines for stationary aircraft including a Solid State Frequency Converter FEGP.  According to the company’s official literature, this product costs around €3 (US$3.80) per hour to operate and as it comprises no moving parts, the firm says that it is inexpensive to maintain.
At Charles de Gaulle airport nine LDX-40 and seven LDX-65 PCA units have been installed to equip all 16 gates at the facility’s new S4 Terminal.  Guinault-Lebrun’s LDX-40 and LDX-65 machines can be fitted with one or two 14-inch (35.6cm) or 18-inch (45.7cm) cold air outlets according to customer preferences.  Conditioned air produced by these machines, which are located on the ground near the terminal end of the passenger bridge, is carried through tubes on the underside of the bridge to connect with the aircraft.  These hoses can only be connected to the aircraft if the bridge is in docking mode, and the bridge can only be moved away from the aircraft if the hoses have been disconnected to prevent damage to the aircraft and to the hoses.
Along with the installation at Charles de Gaulle, several LDX-10 air conditioning systems were introduced at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport in 2009.  One of the clever features of this equipment is that it includes sunlight and temperature sensors allowing the LDX-10 to automatically regulate its cooling power according to the ambient weather conditions.  Meanwhile, several LGW-40 air conditioning units are in use at Brussels-Zaventem Airport.  These machines were installed between 2007 and 2010, and five more were added this year.
Stéphane Periani, export sales engineer for frequency converters and air conditioning units at Guinault-Lebrun says that the company is currently fitting LDX-65 PCA units at Frankfurt Airport.  Mr Periani says that the LDX-65 is the most powerful air conditioning unit of its kind in the marketplace: “With only one machine, we can provide air conditioning for an entire A380.”  He adds that Guinault-Lebrun’s PCAs provide up to 30% more power compared to bridge-mounted air conditioning systems.  The company is expecting an increased demand for FEGP and PCA units in the coming years, as APU regulations continue to tighten around the world.

Guinault-Lebrun’s air-vconditioning units can be mounted close to the terminal – up to four hoses can be used to pipe air to large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380. (All images via author)