KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The association that guides U.S. fire protection standards has determined passenger boarding bridges, currently bland steel boxes at most airports, can now be built safely using glass, opening up a new experience for air travelers.
The recent move by the National Fire Protection Association is expected to be adopted widely by local safety officials throughout the country and provide a fresh alternative to airport designers, said Randy Pope, chairman of the NFPA task force that began studying glass bridges in 2007 and recommended dropping the ban on glass.
Pope is senior vice president in the Aviation Group at Burns & McDonnell. The firm has extensive experience providing design, construction and consulting services for airports from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and beyond.
"In Europe and Canada, they've used glass boarding bridges for years because they offer great views and are much more aesthetically pleasing than the boxes that are prevalent at U.S. airport terminals," Pope said.
"We can now suggest to our domestic clients this is available. While glass can be more expensive, it has significant environmental advantages, so I think it will receive more consideration right away."
Up until now, the only glass endorsed for use in boarding bridges by the NFPA code was limited to the control cab, from which the operator positions the bridge at the aircraft.
Burns & McDonnell has the largest ramp service practice in the world, serving airports and airlines around the globe. The firm's experience includes passenger boarding bridges, fueling systems, preconditioned air and aircraft deicing systems.
"Our architects are excited," said Bret Pilney, vice president in the Aviation Group at Burns & McDonnell. "Up until now, they have to design a beautiful glass terminal building with steel boxes next to it. This will allow boarding bridges to blend in better with the terminal from a visual standpoint."
Pilney also said glass boarding bridges fit in well with the trend toward more environmentally friendly airports.
"With the push toward more modern, green design, it's all about more light and views for passengers," he said. "Windows give people a chance to look out at the terminal and see what's happening on the tarmac. That's great compared with being stuck in a box."
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