At Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), there are 111 passenger boarding bridges (PBBs), which facilitate the movement of passengers from terminal to aircraft. In 2010, a program was established to upgrade and replace the PBBs and ancillary equipment. The airport has completed Phase 1 and is now nearing the completion of Phase 2, which involves the replacement of a dozen PBBs in five terminals and significant infrastructure upgrades at those gates as well as 12 others.
Phase 2, which received the go-ahead to proceed in Fall 2017, called for replacing 12 PBBs at four gates in Terminal A-East, three in B, three in C, one in D and one in E. New CCTV and door access for related hold rooms as well as replacement Ground Power Units (GPU) are being installed at the gates while Pre-Conditioned Air (PCAir) units are being replaced at one gate in Terminal A-East, three in B and C and one in D. Potable water cabinets have been replaced at four gates in Terminal A-East and one in Terminal E. Fixed walkways at two gates in Terminal C are in the process of being refurbished.
“The passenger boarding bridge equipment upgrade projects are important because they not only modernize PHL infrastructure; the new equipment makes for an improved passenger experience when arriving and leaving PHL because in each case the passenger is now passing through a new, climate controlled PBB when going between plane and hold room areas,” noted Project Manager Colleen Parker. “The new PBBs are also equipped with safety features, equipment interlocks, and warning alarms built into the equipment software that enhances operational safety.
“In addition, the new PBBs and upgraded PCAir and GPU equipment makes life a bit easier on the airlines and maintenance staff, as the newer equipment operates more efficiently and tends to have fewer operational issues. When the equipment does have issues, there are diagnostic tools built into the new equipment controls that make the issues easier to diagnose and in many cases easier to fix, as the newer equipment is easier to maintain and work on.”
As the project moved forward, American Airlines asked the airport to update nine gates in Terminals A-East and A-West with larger PCAir, GPU equipment and upgraded electrical infrastructure at A-East to accommodate the Dreamliner aircraft. Also, PCAir upgrades at three gates in Terminal E were made to better accommodate the aircraft fleet mix operated by Spirit Airlines.
“As the impact of the pandemic subsides and demand for air travel returns, the Boeing 787 will play a critical role for American in Philadelphia—serving as the primary widebody aircraft operating to long-haul international markets,” said American Airlines spokesman Andrew Trull. “More 787 capable gates helps ensure American delivers an on-time operation and world-class product for customers as they travel to and through the region.”
This phase of the PBB program is expected to be completed in early February 2021. Total cost is estimated at $28 million. The project was a collaboration among the Division of Aviation and several contractors and suppliers.