July 1, 2008

Alaska Airlines Implements New Ground Air Units, Retrofits 737s With Winglets

Alaska Airlines has begun using mobile ground-based air units for cabin venting, cooling and heat on parked aircraft at nearly all its gates at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The carrier has also retrofitted all of its conversion-capable 737s with blended winglets.

The two projects are the latest in a series of ongoing initiatives by the carrier to conserve fuel and reduce carbon emissions. The diesel-powered preconditioned air units, along with ground-based electrical power, replace the use of an aircraft's onboard auxiliary power unit (APU), which runs on jet fuel.

The ground-based units burn about 10 times less fuel than APUs, meaning the new units will significantly reduce costs and benefit the environment by lowering carbon emissions. The company expects that the annual savings will more than double to 2.4 million gallons of fuel and $5.5 million, once the units are in place at the airline's other hubs in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, later in 2008.

The airline has purchased or leased 33 mobile air units for the five hub airports. The winglets are manufactured by Seattle-based aviation partners Boeing. By the end of 2008, Alaska Airlines will be flying 74 next-generation 737s with winglets, representing 64% of its 116-aircraft fleet.

Kristin Fuson, flight operations engineer and project manager at Alaska Airlines, said: "At the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the use of preconditioned air units at 19 gates is expected to conserve more than 1.1 million gallons of fuel per year, saving the company $2.6 million annually based on the current pump price."