Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New ground power units now operational at Long Beach Airport

Commercial jets visiting Long Beach Airport are now plugging into underground electric outlets under a measure expected to cut noise and pollution that drift from waiting planes into nearby neighborhoods.

The electrification allows large commercial jets owned by Jet Blue, Delta, Allegiant and other airlines to hook into outlets on airport ramps instead of using mobile diesel generators and on-board engines to power air conditioning, baggage handling and other services.

According to a 2005 study at Zurich Airport in Switzerland, these power sources contribute up to 50 percent of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions at the airport and burn large amounts of diesel and jet fuel. Five outlet strips have been completed, with five more expected to be finished by summer, said Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez.

The new tarmac is part of a three-phase, $136-million airport modernization plan that began in 2009. In addition to tarmac, terminal and passenger concourse improvements, the airport is building a $58 million, 1,989-space garage near the airport's entrance off Lakewood Boulevard. The garage is scheduled to be finished as early as August, four months ahead of initial estimates.

An early finish will save the city about $85,000 a month in operating costs of the round-the-clock shuttles now carrying passengers to a leased remote parking lot north of the airport. The lot also costs the airport about $1.8 million annually to lease. When opened, the new garage will generate about $350,000 every month from parking fees, which will be used to pay off garage construction costs, Rodriguez said.

Other sections of the modernization have begun or will launch this summer. A new passenger waiting area currently used by Jet Blue customers, the airport's largest airline, will be demolished in June, with a temporary structure erected until a $45 million, 34,750-square-foot permanent concourse is finished in 2013.

The historic main terminal is also getting $2 million in upgrades, including new paint, lighting, furnishing and other basic improvements. Airport officials are even considering an electric, hands-free toilet seat cover replacement system for women's restrooms, Rodriguez said. The Brill Seat automatically replaces paper seat covers by triggering a wall sensor or pushing a button.

All phases of modernization are expected to accommodate the airport's growing passenger volumes, which have surpassed 3 million annually, more than double the figure just five years ago.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)

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