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1 ARE THERE ANY TRENDS IN THE TYPES OF BOARDING BRIDGES AIRPORTS ARE INSTALLING THESE DAYS? Passenger Boarding Bridges (PBBs) are today most commonly used for passenger fl ow between terminal and commercial aircraft, providing easy access and shelter for the safe transfer of passengers. There are fi ve main types of PBBs: Apron Drive Bridge, A380 Apron Drive Bridge, Commuter Bridge, Nose Loader Bridge and T-Bridge. Each one has a specifi c use, depending on the apron confi guration and the kind of commercial plane that will be docked. The Apron Drive Bridge is by far the most fl exible and popular telescopic boarding bridge worldwide, allowing a variety of docking heights and ample movements thanks to adjustable handling and lifting mechanisms and 360º directional bogies. It uses an electromechanical or hydraulic elevation system and the tunnel structure consists of two or three bodies depending on the space available on the apron. These days, PBBs are not just complex Ground Support Equipment (GSE) that provide access to the plane, but are an extension of the terminal itself. PBBs therefore need to blend in perfectly with the environment and the architecture of the terminal, and to form part of the overall passenger experience. The use of glass-sided walls as opposed to steel-sided ones, together with natural daylight, provide comfort and better visibility for passengers in the narrow space of the tunnels. Even non-tunnel sections, such as the cabin and the rotunda, are now designed to off er natural daylight and outside visibility. However, PBBs with steel-sided walls are still widely used in airports, especially in the US and LATAM, since they provide ample space for advertising and are slightly less expensive. To further improve the comfort of passengers as they pass along the boarding bridge, where they sometimes have to queue, more and more bridges are being fi tted with specifi c air conditioning units attached to the roof, commonly known as “rooftop units”. Their function is to homogeneously distribute quality air and to maintain an optimum temperature inside the PBB, regardless of outside weather conditions. PBBs are now designed to support the extra weight of the 400hz GPUs (Ground Power Units) and PCAs (Pre-Conditioned Air Units) which supply electricity and pre-conditioned air to stationed aircraft, instead of using the power coming from their own engine. The largest PCA units can weigh over 4,000 kg, which is far from negligible. The result is a signifi cant reduction in fuel consumption and Co2 emissions.

Hence, PBBs tend to look nicer and are more fl exible, allowing

airports to service a wider range of airplanes, which is an important factor for increasing traffi c and attracting more airline companies. However, this fl exibility has its limits, especially with regard to regional or smaller jets that require a much longer PBB than class C to F airplanes in order not to exceed the slope inclination gradient of 10% as stipulated in the regulations.


There have been many interesting developments, especially in automation, structure design, energy consumption and IT, but there is still room for improvement. Docking manoeuvres are fast, precise and secure. Multiple

sensors, point-and-go technology and an automated docking system make docking operations simple and successful, preventing any risk to the aircraft or operators on the apron. Automation of the docking process is a great improvement. The operator can enter in the system the reference of the aircraft arriving at the gate and the PBB will pre-position itself automatically. Once the PBB is a few metres from the door of the plane, the operator takes manual control of the manoeuvre until the door of the plane is opened; it is in fact very similar to the automatic pilot of a plane. The PBB will then automatically adjust – we call this “automatic levelling” – to the changes in door height as the plane moves up or down when passengers embark/disembark and luggage is loaded/unloaded. The structure of the PBBs has also been optimized according to

the service loads and GSE integration. Together with more effi cient engines, it provides a more effi cient PBB with reduced energy consumption. Energy consumption is a very important factor to take into account, for environmental reasons obviously, and also because airports have a limited electrical power capacity and need to decrease the consumption of already installed equipment in order to be able to add new equipment. We occasionally had the case where some airports wanted to acquire PCA equipment but, after analysis, realized they did not have the electrical resources to operate it. This is one of the reasons why a new generation of PCA, designed

around full Inverter technology, is arriving on the market. Currently, only ADELTE and one of its competitors off er this innovative technology which can provide increased effi ciency of up to 35% using two inverter compressors. AENA is the fi rst airport operator to have purchased this technology. ADELTE recently installed 20 units at the airport of Palma de Mallorca in Spain. More and more airports require an advanced system called a IASS (Integrated Aircraft Stand System). The IASS provides better integration between the PBB and other GSE such as VDGS (Visual Docking Guidance System), PCA, GPU and Water Cabinets, and allows the airport to monitor incidents and the number of service hours of each equipment, etc.; which is useful information in order to have a global understanding of gate equipment operation. Finally, also with the aim of improving the performance of the PBBs, and to support our clients in the operation of our equipment, we have developed Webgate, an IT feature which allows us, as manufacturer, to connect remotely to the HMI (Human Machine Interface) of the PBB and to see the exact same data as the on-site operator. It is especially useful for resolving any doubt or issue more quickly.

May / June 2016 / AF / 31

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