Seattle-Tacoma International Airport got a financial boost Thursday for its plan to reduce air pollution at the busy airport when the Federal Aviation Administration announced an $18.3 million grant to help build a centralized heating and air conditioning system for planes at airport gates.
This “central air” system will replace a hodgepodge of less efficient, more polluting systems used to keep aircraft interiors cool or warm while the planes are loading passengers.
When the $33 million system is completed in 2012, aircraft will receive conditioned air through a flexible duct that will connect the aircraft to the heating system at each gate.
Each gate’s system will receive a chilled or heated mixture of water and glycol from a central heating and air conditioning plant. That mixture will warm or cool air through a heat exchanger before that air is piped to each plane.
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Currently, aircraft use a variety of methods, all of them more polluting and less efficient than the central system.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said his agency’s $18.3 million grant to Sea-Tac is the largest its has made to any airport for such an environmental project.
The airport, and ultimately the airlines it serves, will pay the additional $14.7 million cost of the conversion project, Sea-Tac director Mark Reis said .
The heating and cooling project is part of a larger Sea-Tac initiative to cut fuel consumption, waste and pollution at the airport.
The airport, for instance, is equipping each of its 73 gates with charging stations for airport ramp vehicles such as the tugs that move baggage carts, tractors to move aircraft away from the gates and other vehicles that service airliners. The Port of Seattle, which owns the airport, plans to replace some 200 gasoline and diesel vehicles with battery-powered electric vehicles once the charging stations are installed.
And the airport, Alaska Airlines, The Boeing Co. and the FAA are developing a new system that will allow aircraft using the airport to make descents from cruising altitude to landing in a way that minimizes fuel use. That optimized descent profile essentially will allow aircraft to glide downward in a sloping path to land .