EVA discusses ground power provision with Unitron Marketing Manager Lee Kaddatz
Behind every aircraft movement a large and disparate collection of people, equipment and technology moves in often seemingly unrelated directions to ensure the flight is maintained, fuelled and planned, despatched and passed safely through airspace sectors, even without considering the needs of passengers and crew. Take any one of these components out of the equation and the result’s unlikely to be a satisfactory conclusion, however small the factor might be.
Business and VIP travellers usually fly to tight schedules, comfortable in the knowledge that the system works. Much of that system is discrete, even hidden, so that while their effect is essential, individual components are seldom, if ever noticed. For example, take those anonymous boxes that sit on aircraft ramps everywhere, trailing cables to parked aircraft…
They’re ground power units (GPUs), quietly doing what they do, and certainly in the case of Unitron’s GPUs, which are solid-state devices taking electrical power from the local utility supply and generating an aircraft-compatible supply that simply plugs into a global-standard socket. When an aircraft is parked, engines off, with power on but no auxiliary power unit (APU) running, all its electrical requirements, from avionics, through lighting to food refrigeration, are satisfied by the GPU. For aircraft with no APU, it’s usually the GPU that starts the engines too.
Lee Kaddatz, Unitron’s Marketing Manager says: “Unitron manufactures a complete line of 400Hz GPUs with output power ratings ranging from 20kVA to over 180kVA. They’re available in mobile, towable, freestanding and boarding-bridge mounted configurations and supply clean, quiet, reliable ground power on the ramp or in the hangar. They adhere to multiple regulations, including the familiar ISO 6858E, ISO-461-1, the EU CE Mark, Canadian CSA certification and US UL 1012, as well as the US NFPA 70 (NEC 500) and European EN 60079-10 regulations that govern GPU operations in hangars.
“The majority of business and VIP aircraft need lower-powered units compared to commercial airliners; we provide 400Hz AC power and 28VDC power to the business aviation market. Most Gulfstreams, for example, require either 28VDC or maximum 45kVA 400Hz power, while the Global Express can require up to 90kVA power.”
Kaddatz says Unitron’s current UFC Series units have been upgraded to bring a range of unique features to market. “As well as 400Hz AC and 28VDC, the series offers 270VDC output to the military and includes cable handling equipment. We’ve incorporated additional safety, with top-down cooling airflow and cockpit remote on/off control, along with advanced communication and diagnostics features, two alternative operator displays – digital or touch screen – and energy saving and energy conservation measures, including sleep mode for the airline industry.”
Kaddatz is certain Unitron’s customer service is second to none, including the AID & CARE communication and diagnostics packages, bolstered by advanced self-diagnostic capabilities. The units are equipped with front panel USB and Ethernet ports for maintenance troubleshooting and software upgrades, while front panel displays show fault messages.
“We have a 24/7 worldwide customer service number and we’re genuinely able to solve the majority of issues over the phone. The front panels explain the issue in a phrase, rather than the more traditional light combination that operators have to look up in a troubleshooting manual. Our customers understand the faults or warnings that appear on the front panel, but it also holds a downloadable event log that they can email to a service centre for further analysis. It means we can be even more efficient in helping our end user get back up and running.”
Unitron’s international business aviation customer base includes operators with a single machine, expanding up to charter companies, FBOs and MROs with fleets of its GPUs. Many customers also lease their equipment and given its reputation for rugged reliability, there’s a healthy market in used Unitron GPUs, available from the manufacturer and its authorised general aviation distributors. Kaddatz is obviously confident in and proud of Unitron’s build quality and the dependability of its GPUs but admits: “Our equipment lasts so long that often I compete against myself as customers buy used equipment instead of new!”