On Monday 11th February, Auckland Airport, working in close co-operation with Air New Zealand, introduced a trial of a new and improved ground power unit (GPU).

A GPU enables an aircraft, whilst on the gate, to plug in and power itself using electricity, instead of using its auxiliary power unit that would burn jet fuel.

GPUs have been in place for some time at Auckland, but utilisation rates have been low due to ground handling staff having to drag heavy cables to the aircraft.

The solution is a $0.25M device, called a “crocodile”, which improves the manoeuvrability of the long cables and minimizes the risk of injury.

The six to eight week trial will monitor all aspects of the installation: health and safety, energy use and fuel savings and, if successful, the technology will be rolled out across all international gates. Increased utilisation will lead to significant reductions in fuel burn and the carbon footprint of all airlines coming to Auckland Airport.

“It is Air New Zealand’s aim to become the world’s most environmentally sustainable airline and we are pleased to be taking the lead, along with Auckland Airport, on this trial which will allow our aircraft to taxi on to gate with their auxiliary power units switched off reducing both CO2 emissions and noise,” says Air New Zealand Chief Flight Operations and Safety Officer David Morgan.

The initiative also reflects Auckland Airport’s approach to sustainable business practice. Martin Fryer, Auckland Airports Sustainability and Environmental Manager said “Auckland Airport recently reviewed its sustainability plan and realised that many targets can only be achieved through cooperation with like-minded businesses. This project is a superb example of how we can achieve our long-term goals of reducing energy, water and waste per passenger by 20% by 2020. It can be done through successful partnerships with key customers, key suppliers and the wider airport community."