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    Better Connected Flights: The Technology Powering The World’s Busiest Airports

Airline passengers get angry when weather delays their flights, but they are downright unforgiving when delays are preventable.

That makes it imperative for airports to use the best, most up-to-date technology.

Take the case of the logistics system used at Hong Kong International Airport to manage the many details in moving tens of millions of passengers on more than 365,000 flights each year. The airport’s coastal location subjects the power infrastructure to high humidity and saline concentrations. As a result, HKIA suffered from too much unnecessary downtime in its system.

The airport knew it had to act decisively to stem the problem of unhappy passengers, lower airline profits and time added to journeys. To ensure that its logistics system did not incur as many stoppages, HKIA installed a modular uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system designed to meet its power requirements and survive local environmental conditions.

”Huawei’s UPS solutions effectively improve the airport power supply system’s availability,” said Simon Shum, general manager of Netsphere Solution Limited, the leader of HKIA’s electrical upgrade project. “The power system matches the airport security systems’ requirements in terms of reliability, simplified operation and maintenance, as well as operation and maintenance cost savings.”

By implementing this technology, Shum says that the reliability of the airport’s logistics system has increased by 6%. This directly translates into far fewer delayed flights and greater customer satisfaction.

UPS has been used for years in the enterprise market to keep facility and computer systems online in the event of a power outage. The moment power is lost, the UPS kicks in. Through a bank of batteries, it provides maintenance personnel with an invaluable window of time to resolve electrical issues and return the power supply to normal operation.

”Huawei’s UPS solutions effectively improve the airport power supply system’s availability,” said Simon Shum, general manager of Netsphere Solution Limited, the leader of HKIA’s electrical upgrade project.

Living on the edge

HKIA is one of the world’s busiest crossroads. Not only does it rank No. 1 in cargo volume, but as a gateway to mainland China, it is one of the planet’s busiest passenger hubs; it serves nearly 50 million passengers annually with more than 1,000 flights daily from more than 100 airlines. (Note: 1,000 flights daily means 90 seconds in average for every takeoff or landing.)

The present-day HKIA opened in 1998 on Chek Lap Kok Island, which is largely made of land reclaimed to house the airport. Because the runways are within a few hundred feet of the water’s edge and the main terminal is less than 1,500 feet from the ocean, equipment at the site must be able to operate reliably in a moist, salty environment. With airplanes arriving or departing an average every 1.4 minutes, any interruption of the power supply would result in economic losses and schedule disruption.

“Increasing passenger numbers and higher security standards place much stricter requirements on the proper operation of the logistics system,” said Li Zongjian, Huawei’s Data Center Facilities Sales Director in the Southern-East Asia Region. “Its failure may lead to a large number of delayed departing flights and stranded passengers.”

The UPS architectures formerly used at the airport were vulnerable to harsh environment and unpredictable failure resulting from naturally failure-prone components. UPSs are usually tested and verified in normal atmospheric conditions.

Li said that maintenance was another important consideration.

“It’s impossible for an airport technician to maintain a traditional UPS,” he said. The only choice is to secure the help of the supplier. Even if these systems are said to be redundant, the power interruption risk increases greatly.”

To eliminate the possible threats to logistics system operations, HKIA chose a Huawei UPS. The company’s experience in UPS equipment extends beyond the data center to industrial and commercial customers that require nonstop, dependable power. In addition to HKIA, the UPS provides stable power to other airports in China and the U.K., as well as to banks, harbors, utilities, oil producers, hospitals and telecommunications companies throughout the world.

“The most important issue is reliability,” Shum said. “After strict testing, we decided to use Huawei’s modular UPS because it has excellent performance, as well as electrical and environmental adaptability.”

The dual controller and redundant fan design of UPS5000 eliminate any single point of failure. The system can also accept a wide range of input voltages and frequencies; even if the power source to the HKIA logistics system is far from ideal, it delivers high-quality power to keep the flight-related logistics fully functional. The modular design of the UPS5000-E allows for faster maintenance, which means greater power continuity.

Equally important, the system possesses a special coating that eliminates corrosion. In addition, a predictive alarm system locates failures before they occur via regular auto checking of critical components. This alerts technicians to existing issues, enabling them to replace problematic components before the airport experiences a UPS failure. As an added bonus, HKIA benefits from unexpected energy savings.

“Traditional UPSs have an operating efficiency of 90 percent while the Huawei UPS achieves an overall efficiency of 96 percent,” Li said. “This adds up to about 40,000 kWh of electricity saved per year.”

At a cost of $.12 to $.24 per kWh, this equates to a cost reduction of anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per year at the airport.

Shum said that the system has already delivered on its reliability targets – and more. “The Huawei UPS is reliable, and its performance is beyond our expectations,” he said.