From hot and humid to dry and dusty, airports in Florida and Nevada are providing a spectrum of high-mercury environments to test a new generation of preconditioned air units.
Facts & Figures
Project: Beta Testing of Preconditioned Air Units
Airports: McCarran Int'l & Sarasota Bradenton Int'l
Equipment: eLite Series PCAir
Manufacturer: Trilectron Industries
Air Carriers Involved: Delta Airlines & AirTran Airways
Testing Period: Approximately 6 months
Estimated Completion: October 2010
Rayburn is optimistic about replacing the R-22 refrigerant in McCarran's existing PCAir units with the new refrigerant. "We believe the new R-410a refrigerant is a good potential replacement product because it's highly efficient and environmentally friendly," he reports. "The new Trilectron product differs from the existing PCAir units in that it's completely redesigned, including new controls, a new condenser fan system, and uses only two 30-ton compressors with R-410a."
McCarran has suggested tweaks to Trilectron based on initial equipment tests. To date, most of its suggestions pertain to the product design, including ideas to potentially improve ease of maintenance and installation.
Across the country, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) beta tested a single module, 30-ton equivalent PCAir unit in the heat of a muggy Florida summer. SRQ's location close to the Gulf of Mexico provides a high humidity index to test the new model, notes Bob Mattingly, vice president of operations and maintenance for the airport. "Our conditions will test the unit to the maximum," says Mattingly.
In addition to exploring potential operational savings, SRQ is also helping its neighbor. Trilectron's headquarters are located just 10 miles north of the airport.
"The PCAir units we currently have at our airline gates are ground mounted and adjacent to the jet bridges. The new units are attractive to the airport because of their reduced weight and are mounted on the underside of the jet bridge," says Mattingly. "There is economy in doing that as well as a safety benefit to below-wing ground operations. In addition, this particular new design has improved anti-corrosion characteristics more suitable for a salt air environment and it is more energy efficient."
"I have gotten feedback from some of the crews that came in with the older system and now use the newer system," explains Varnell. "They talk about how much colder the airplane is and how much more efficient the new unit seems to be. These new units blow much colder air. By doing that, it keeps passengers comfortable during the loading and unloading process."
Indications are Positive
Trilectron Industries general manager Bill Bamford says that personnel at both field test airports have been impressed with how quickly a cold temperature can be achieved and how fast air is pumped into the aircraft.
Sarasota Bradenton is testing a single module unit, while McCarran has a double module due to heat conditions and functions of its aircraft. Sarasota has its unit on a gate servicing single-aisle, narrow-body 737s. McCarran has dual-aisle wide bodies that need a higher airflow.
"One thing we were really striving for on this new unit was to keep the consistent airflow and temperature," Bamford notes. "Some of the existing product has more fluctuation up and down, and we think we have gotten this one to a point where we can get super cold air and we can maintain it across different ambient conditions, but also keep it at a consistent temperature during the cycling of the unit."
Following the beta testing, Bamford anticipates putting the eLITE series on the market, with prices varying according to size, features and options. Since the units are set up as single, double, triple or potentially even quad modules, they can match the airflow with the ambient conditions and the size of aircraft being serviced, he notes.
"The modularity also allows us to have some commonality in components, stock and inventory," Bamford relates. "So for production, we can easily assemble the modules together in the factory environment."
Both McCarran and Sarasota Bradenton are considering purchasing eLITE units, but are awaiting final results of their tests, which are scheduled to conclude in October.
The official launch of the eLITE Series is also expected in October at the International Airport Expo in Las Vegas, where Trilectron plans to demonstrate a new mobile version of the unit.