Abbotsford Int'l Chooses Prefab Field Electrical Center

Carroll McCormick
Published in: 



Project: Airfield Lighting Field Electrical Center with Associated Control & Monitoring System

Location: Abbotsford Int'l Airport

Building Size: 32 feet long; almost 24 feet wide

Project Budget: $1.4 million (USD)

Funding: Canada Infrastructure Stimulus Fund

Owner: Abbotsford Airport Authority

Timeline: March - October 2010

Manufacturer/Designer/Builder: Liberty Airport Systems

Consultant: Hatch Mott MacDonald

Scope: Prefabricated building; ALFEC & ALCMS

Noteworthy Details: Single-source supply, installation & commissioning

In the midst of already heavy airside construction, simplicity was the guiding principle when Abbotsford International in British Columbia, Canada, chose a prefabricated airfield lighting field electrical center (ALFEC) and associated control and monitoring system for its air traffic control tower.

"Prefab is the wave of the future," says Parm Sidhu, manager of airport operations and facilities. "Otherwise we would have had to build the building, find the generator, determine where the electrical systems would go in the building ... This is why we see more and more people going this route."

With nearly 123,000 aircraft movements in 2010, Abbotsford International was extending its apron and taxiway, and building a new taxiway parallel to its 9,600-foot Runway 07/25. Both projects prompted its consultant, engineering company Hatch Mott MacDonald, to recommend a prefabricated ALFEC and airfield lighting control and monitoring system (ALCMS).

"The airport realized that there would be a lot of people on the airside for the apron and taxiway work. We looked at the space and power requirements and decided to go to a prefab," explains Jim Wynne, airfield lighting and power systems designer, Hatch Mott MacDonald. "The airport realized that it didn't need to have (more) people going airside."

Decades Newer

The former ALFEC was about 35 years old, with some equipment dating to around 1986. The new building consists of two side-by-side modules, each measuring 32 feet long by almost 12 feet wide, which meet the province's seismic code and FAA's L-890 specification. The new equipment gives the airport electrician, maintenance staff and air traffic controllers powerful monitoring and lighting control capabilities.

Liberty Airport Systems tailored its Freedom Series ALFEC and ALCMS to meet the airport's requirements. Liberty manufactures thyristor and ferroresonant L-829 switchgear constant current regulators (CCRs), L-847 circuit selector switches and programmable logic controller-based L-890 ALCMS systems using off-the-shelf components. It procures other equipment, such as generators and electrical distribution system equipment, from major North American manufacturers. Local fabricators construct the bare buildings to Liberty's specifications.

The pre-fab building sare well-constructed, Wynne says: "With the continuous welds, the buildings are air and water tight." After the building was complete, Liberty installed the equipment and conducted factory acceptance testing of all building systems, power and control equipment, including a 24-hour full load test on the generator.

After the system's three-day journey to Abbotsford, Liberty installed the modules on a concrete pad, hooked up the power and re-tested the equipment. Within a week, everything was ready for the one-day switchover to the new systems.

If the airport ever decides to move its control tower, the ALFEC can simply be unplugged, picked up and moved, note company representatives.

The Pros of Prefab

Selecting a prefabricated system reduced project management costs and spared the airport tasks such as coordinating multiple trades and arranging security. Working under controlled conditions also prevented weather delays.

"Because we manufacture off site, we do all the coordination that the airport would have to do on site," explains Liberty vice president Don Gordon. "Tendering and associated costs are reduced considerably. With one supplier acting as the general contractor, the chances of having to include extra costs are virtually eliminated."

Wynne appreciates the single-source warrantee coverage for the ALFEC and ALCMS. "There is no 'blame game' with respect to what goes on in the building," he notes.

The module referred to as the regulator building houses 20 ferroresonant CCRs. They sample electrical output 12,000 times a second to ensure it is within specified parameters. The superior output waveform is designed to reduce problems with lighting and navigation aids for end users. "The equipment and entire electrical distribution system will last longer," Gordon explains.

The system also has 100 MBit Ethernet capability, which allows the operator to control the CCRs and monitor and record up to 35 electrical measurements from each regulator. "The [airfield lighting] field electrical center tells you what has gone out. You are much more aware of the status of the system," says Abbotsford International's airfield electrician Bob Koch. The system is graphically represented on the control tower and maintenance department's LCD displays. Integrated monitoring, alarming and reporting software helps staff perform system maintenance.

"The new system is all computerized, logged and monitored and has a touch screen," Koch adds. "It has programmable logic controls and fiber optic cables. As for the link between the FEC and tower, we have redundancy with two different systems. If the fiber optic link fails, we have a radio link that takes over."

The diesel building includes a 200kW, 250 kVA backup generator, automatic transfer switch and HVAC controls. Both buildings include Novec fire suppression systems.

The new ALCMS gives air traffic controllers vastly improved control over the airfield lighting, reports Koch. "The old ALCMS was much like switching on the lights in a house," he recalls. The new ALCMS has a touch screen and graphic display of the runways, taxiways and lighting arrays. Controllers can, for example, switch from day to nighttime operations with the touch of a single button. Dedicated pushbuttons can perform tasks such as runway end selection and runway visual range changes.

Liberty provides remote technical support and can make system or graphics changes via a phone line. In addition, air traffic services provider NAV CANADA can now turn over control of the airfield to the airport for after-hour operations.


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