Glasgow Airport promotes green agenda as part of wider expansion

posted on 15th May 2019

Eight new hybrid vehicles represent a significant investment as Glasgow seeks to minimise its environmental footprint. Meanwhile, Emirates has launched an A380 service into the gateway, a milestone development for Glasgow that also required a financial commitment

Scotland’s Glasgow Airport has invested £200,000 in a new hybrid fleet of vehicles. It has acquired eight hybrid petrol/electric Mitsubishi Outlander 4x4s, which have been deployed across the airport’s security, engineering and airfield operations teams.

A number of charging stations were installed across the airport to recharge the vehicles as necessary.

Unlike conventional hybrids, the airport operator notes, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Mitsubishi Outlander can be plugged in and recharged from an outlet to enable them to drive extended distances using just electricity. When the battery is running low or is empty, the conventional engine supports it.

Mark Johnston, the managing director of Glasgow Airport, enthuses: “The Outlander hybrid vehicles are fantastic additions to our fleet. The vehicles they have replaced produced between 200 and 230 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, whereas the Outlander is around the 41 grams mark.

“As well as delivering up to 166 miles per gallon, they also have the ability to drive over 30 miles with zero emissions using just electricity. As the fleet makes short journeys around the airfield, the Outlanders will be charged frequently at one of our stations to again minimise the amount of fuel used.

“We also enjoy the added bonus that 100% of our own electricity supply at Glasgow Airport is generated using renewable energy,” Johnston adds.

“The environmental benefits and considerable cost reductions associated with the introduction of these hybrid plug-in vehicles are very attractive, so much so that through time we are considering rolling them out across the entire airport fleet,” he informs.

Ronald Leitch, head of aerodrome operations at Glasgow Airport, describes the acquisition of the new vehicles as a significant step forward. They are in constant use, he reports, whether undertaking security patrols, safety inspections or responding to maintenance requests.

When it came to replacing the fleet of diesel cars operated by the airport for these purposes, “We wanted the greenest way possible to deploy that capability,” he says. Glasgow looked at an all-electric fleet, Leitch recalls, but the airport couldn’t spare the hours of vehicle downtime necessary for charging their batteries. Plus, if a vehicle were to run out of charge in a safety-critical area, there could be a significant impact on operations.

Glasgow Airport worked closely with Arnold Clark– a nationwide chain of car dealerships – on the car fleet replacement, explaining its requirements for a green footprint alongside all its other needs (including that they must be 4x4s, given that they would be driving along perimeter tracks and would be operating at times through harsh Scottish winters).

Once the decision was taken to go with the PHEVs, there was clearly a need for the appropriate charging infrastructure. In the event, the airport installed four rapid charging points: at the airfield operations tower, at its engineering offices, at its main security point and at the terminal operations team’s base.

Some additional training was required for the airport’s car maintenance engineers, and Arnold Clark also provide some familiarisation training for the drivers of the new hybrids. The cars were then introduced to their new operators in a short phased fleet renewal process.

Leitch believes these PHEVs set the standard for the gateway’s vehicle fleets, and he confirms that he and his colleagues at Glasgow would consider similar options when it comes to replacing other vehicles used by the airport operator’s maintenance teams, for example.

Other moves towards electric operation have taken place in the GSE used at Glasgow. For example, Menzies is now using electric Mototok tugs to handle British Airways A319/A320/A321 aircraft at the gateway. “We were very keen to see that at Glasgow,” Leitch states.

Welcoming the A380

Growth is also on the menu for Glasgow Airport and 16 April this year represented a particularly momentous day for the gateway, when Emirates operated the inaugural of its new Dubai – Glasgow service into the gateway.

While Emirates will only operate the A380 to Glasgow for a period of six months before returning to a twice-daily B777 connection, this nevertheless represents the first time that the super jumbo has been flown on a scheduled commercial service into Scotland.

The A380 had once previously visited the airport, when in 2014 Emirates flew a super jumbo into Glasgow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the carrier’s operations into the gateway (the Dubai-based airline first began flying into Glasgow on 10 April 2004, since when both the frequency of services has increased markedly – as has the size of the aircraft used on the route).

Emirates confirmed last year that it would operate the A380 into Glasgow on a scheduled basis and Glasgow Airport subsequently invested more than £8 million to upgrade its infrastructure in order to be able to handle the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft.

Airside improvements included the installation of Scotland’s only triple airbridge (Glasgow partnering with thyssenkrupp on this), as well as various other airfield improvements and modifications to stand and gate 30, which will welcome and serve the giant. The changes required meant a lot of work – including at weekends and nights – to meet the immovable deadline of the arrival of the A380, Leitch recalls.

New GSE was also required. Swissport brought in a new, bigger tug to handle the aircraft, while Alpha LSG Catering also invested in two new high-tech catering trucks.

The £8 million spent to ready Glasgow for the arrival of the A380 formed part of a wider programme of spending over the last few years, Leitch says, that has included runway rehabilitation work, the modernisation of various terminal and gate areas, and even committed investment in the airport’s fire safety capability. It has taken on three new Rosenbauer Panther High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET) fire-fighting vehicles, and training has just begun on a newly acquired fire training simulator.

Looking ahead, Leitch envisages further spending in improving terminal areas, while the airport is also looking at the potential construction of new stands and a possible major phase of runway rehabilitation work.

Glasgow Airport is owned by AGS Airports – a partnership between Ferrovial and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). With 30 airlines serving more than 120 destinations worldwide, including cities in Canada, the US, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, Glasgow is Scotland’s principal long-haul air gateway. It serves more than 9 million passengers a year and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.