Alaska Airlines, in an effort to conserve fuel and reduce carbon emissions, has implemented mobile ground-based air units for cabin venting, cooling and heating on parked aircraft at 19 gates at Seattle-Tacoma International. It also retrofitted its 737s with blended winglets manufactured by Aviation Partners Boeing.

"With fuel prices at record highs, Alaska Airlines is doing all it can to reduce consumption," Corporate Communications Manager Marianne Lindsey told Airline Procurement. "These efforts help cut costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep our fares as competitive as possible."

Powered by diesel and ground-based electricity, the preconditioned air units replace onboard APUs that burn about 10 times more fuel. The carrier estimates that the units will render annual savings of about $2.6 million and more than 1.1 million gal. of fuel. AS also plans to install units at hubs at Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco later this year. In September, some fixed units, powered exclusively by electricity, will be installed at those locations.

"Alaska Airlines had been moving toward using ground-based air units for about two years," AS Project Manager and Flight Engineer Kristin Fuson noted. "The units make even better economic sense with oil prices hovering around $135 a barrel. The airline has purchased or leased 33 mobile air units for the five hub airports. Even with the initial cost of $65,000 per unit, the machines pay for themselves in about 1.5 years."

The winglets are expected to enhance fuel efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions by some 100,000 gal. a year per aircraft. The carrier projects it will fly 74 737NGs with winglets (more than 60% of its fleet) by year end.

"The gold standard in winglets, our technology has saved the industry and the world community more than one billion gallons of fuel to date with projected additional fuel savings of more than 175 million gallons in 2008," remarked Aviation Partners Boeing Founder and Chairman Joe Clark. "No other airplane modification will provide the fuel savings and eco-friendly benefits of our blended winglet technology."

On Aug. 25, Alaska Airlines will take its remaining seven MD-80s out of service and fly only 737s, which are more fuel-efficient. Other fuel-saving initiatives include the use of only one engine when taxiing jets for maintenance and employing Required Navigation Performance technology to improve direct routing and reduce diversions due to weather.