Southwest Airlines’ $4 million program to voluntarily convert its ground support equipment to non-polluting fuels makes this long-time Chamber member an important player in our region’s quest for cleaner air.
In the 1990’s, when Dallas and Houston began struggling to meet the federal mandate to improve air quality, reducing emissions from ground support equipment (GSE) used to service aircraft at area airports became a critically important element of the overall plan. Southwest Airlines entered into a voluntary agreement with the State of Texas to convert fossil-fueled ground support equipment to new, costly, electric-powered equipment at Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby Airports.
At that time there were very few manufacturers of electric-powered baggage tractors and beltloaders, and none that built electric-powered aircraft push tractors durable enough to meet Southwest Airlines’ business model. Building on the experimental work of a group of its ground equipment mechanics in Phoenix, Arizona, Southwest Airlines subsequently worked with its primary supplier to convert diesel-powered pushback tractors to electric power.
Soon the airline was able to put electric-powered pushback tractors into service in Dallas and Houston – equipment that “works just like their diesel-powered counter parts,” recalls Larry Laney, Director of Ground Support for Southwest Airlines. “When Southwest Airlines started this project we had three objectives: standardization of equipment, cost control and performance. The electric-powered units had to perform as well as our diesel-powered units at the gate. This team of Southwest employees and our supplier has met or exceeded our goals by thinking outside of the box,” Laney adds.
New Southwest Airlines ground support equipment with a lightning bolt painted on the side can be seen at Dallas Love Field. The design is another feature created by Southwest Employees.
Southwest Airlines’ voluntary GSE conversion commitment was in jeopardy following the financial catastrophe afflicting the airlines as a result of 9/11. “I am pleased to report, however, that not only has Southwest continued with that voluntary commitment, we will accomplish the conversion a year earlier than our commitment provided,” reports Ron Ricks, Senior Vice President of Southwest Airlines.
“By the end of 2004, we will have acquired almost 100 pieces of battery-powered ground support equipment for our operations at Dallas Love Field, at a cost of over $3.7 million.”
The Chamber salutes Southwest’s innovative approach to our area’s air quality challenges. Replacement of its diesel equipment with electric-powered vehicles will generate a significant reduction in harmful ozone-causing emissions and will help make our air healthier for everyone.
For information on the Chamber's air quality programs or to let us know about your company's efforts to improve our environment, contact Esther Gebhardt at 214-746-6612 or email@example.com.