Heat pumps are being installed next to the aeroplanes


From mid-June, Genève Aéroport is installing seventeen autonomous heat pumps on its tarmac. The goal: to heat or cool the aeroplanes before take-off. This new system will bring significant energy savings.

Prior to take-off, aeroplanes need to be supplied with either hot air or cold air, depending on the season. Until now, at Genève Aéroport, pipes lying underneath the tarmac have carried the air to the aeroplanes. « The current system is dated and the pipes have, over time, become less and less airtight », explained Fabio Bernardo, leader of climate engineering projects. The result: the air inserted into the planes is of insufficient quality.

Another problem is that water and de-icing fluid are finding their way into the pipes and are causing unpleasant smells in the aeroplanes, so discouraging airlines from using the system. Finally, the system currently producing negative temperatures uses a great deal of energy. « For the system to work, the network needs to be maintained at a constant temperature, meaning it is constantly switched on, whether an aeroplane is connected or not », added Fabio Bernardo.

Less energy, less kerosene, less noise

The installation of sixteen autonomous air-air heat pumps*, at every boarding bridge, started in mid-June and is expected to continue for a month and a half. They are in addition to the prototype installed in 2017. The advantages? They consume considerably less energy as they are switched on only at the time of use. Furthermore, unlike in the past, aeroplanes no longer need to use their auxiliary power unit, reducing noise on the tarmac and the consumption of kerosene.

The heat pumps are also easier for ground teams to use: rather than having to open a trap-door, staff now only need to push a button on a remote control to turn on the air, channelled through a new telescopic pipe. Passengers and flight crews will benefit from improved air quality. Airlines will be able to use the autonomous heat pumps from November, following several months of checks.
* Air-air heat pumps use the calories from the outside air to heat or refresh an aeroplane.