Flying High at JFK's T5

By Claire Swedberg | Jan 15, 2010
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New York’s E-J Electric Installation Company is putting the final touches on a multiyear project at John F Kennedy Airport, which serves the New York City area. The contractor is wiring the newly constructed 635,000-square-foot JetBlue Airways terminal, which includes 26 gates. The terminal has begun servicing 360 flights in and out daily. E-J Electric provided electric installation, including switchgear, feeders, low-voltage data and fire safety, and supplemental power from three generators.

The Y-shaped Terminal 5 building connects to JetBlue’s previous location, Terminal 6, once the Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight Center used by TWA. T5 offers modern facilities and room for growth, as the airline continues to expand its operations and both domestic and international flights.

“We began this project with growth in mind,” said Richard Smythe, JetBlue’s vice president of corporate real estate.

JetBlue, JFK’s fastest growing airline, started flying in and out of the airport a decade ago with just one gate for a handful of flights. Since then, JetBlue grew a gate at a time, reaching the 13 gates maximum that were available to it at Terminal 6. In 2005, the airline added seven temporary gates in a separate facility, requiring passengers to take a JetBlue bus to access their planes. As a result, the airline needed a permanent space and began planning T5, making allowances for continued expansion.

“International growth has been significant,” Smythe said, adding that already many international flights on JetBlue are coming into other terminals. Eventually, they will become part of T5. “Because there’s so much activity, we’re thinking of building an international terminal [within the next two years],” he said.

The airline’s architect designed T5 to include 26 gates, with 13 on each end of the Y and room for 10 more. The company’s T5 master plan included up to 20 security lanes, the departure and arrival gates, free Wi-Fi access throughout the entire terminal, 22 restaurants and food outlets, retail stores, and large children’s area.

JetBlue hired Turner Construction as general contractor, and Turner employed a total of 80 subcontractors, including E-J Electric for the electrical portion.

E-J Electric and Turner already have completed numerous projects together, including Yankee Stadium, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Interfaith Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

E-J Electric, whose electricians have worked at JFK for years, was selected to do electrical wiring tasks, including both normal and emergency power in addition to low voltage.

Since E-J Electric’s workers already had considerable experience in airport work, getting them to comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Port Authority (PA) regulations was fairly straightforward. For instance, each electrician must gain security clearance on a job-by-job basis. This project required all workers to take a safety training class before starting work on the project. They also had to carry a picture ID badge at all times.

“The contract we sign requires us to be familiar with PA specifications as well as the job specs,” said Frank Lambraia, E-J Electric project executive. “We have to be aware of where they conflict and get clarification before proceeding.”

The JetBlue design team worked closely with contractors for this project, in part to help keep the project on time.

“This was a fast-track project,” Smythe said, adding that it allowed contractors to begin early construction while the design work was being completed, including excavation and early steel work.

JetBlue also worked on procuring the electrical switchgear in advance. The airline wanted to get the terminal open and in use as soon as possible, as well as to retire the modular terminal, with the bus transportation.

“With the way JetBlue and the industry was growing, we didn’t want to operate out of a temporary terminal any longer than necessary. We pride ourselves in focusing on the customer,” Smythe said.

With that in mind, the airline has provided a terminal that is intended to make the passenger experience a pleasant and easy one. About 90 percent of the 50,000 square feet of concessions is located behind the security gates, of which there are 20 altogether to keep lines short. Such positioning allows passengers to better relax over a meal or shopping, knowing the security portion of their trip is behind them.

E-J’s flight report

Smythe said that the site being a greenfield—with no prior networks in place—was good for the project’s progression.

“We could put a fence around it and build it, then hand over the key,” Smythe said.

Although it was a large project, the ability to do the bulk of the work without the presence of passengers or airport employees simplified the task.

The project included an uninterruptible power supply system, ventilation system including more than 500 strands of single-mode fiber optic cabling, and more than a thousand fusion splices and Category 5e backbone cabling to provide connectivity between the PA; JetBlue’s terminal; and JFK’s terminals 4, 6 and 7.

To power the facility, E-J built in three separate “five-pack” sets of substations where the 5-kilovolt (kV) switchgear was installed, in the north, east and south sections of the terminal. Each substation included three collector bus rooms that distribute the electrical power throughout the terminal.

E-J also connected three generators for backup power. The company installed the grounding loop, pipe and wire to the Cummins generators, which were all built into enclosed structures outside the building. To begin that portion of the project, E-J dug 30 feet of duct banks and ran the pipe and wire through those to two 100-kilowatt (kW) generators and one 750-kW generator. The contractor also extended underground power and telephone through the duct bank.

To continuously monitor the incoming utility power, E-J also installed 14 automatic transfer switches.

For safety, E-J erected multiple 30-foot lightning protection poles around the building. The company also installed all 220/480-volt (V) power and lighting transformers and 120/208-volt power distribution, including six air terminal ESE lightning protection and grounding systems.

Throughout the facility, E-J also installed the audiovisual and electrical equipment designed to feed power to digital screens for passenger use at gates, concession areas and at baggage claim. Some of the monitors E-J installed included the flight information displays throughout the terminal and near the baggage claim carousels and televisions in the waiting areas across all three sections of the terminal. All together, E-J installed 200 LCD monitors, each with custom mounting applications.

The contractor also installed e-ticket kiosks, baggage scales, check-in and gate counter ticketing computer equipment, and video conference room equipment, including monitors and digital cameras for 13 rooms. The company also installed JetBlue’s employee time-management equipment. E-J installed a total of 500 strands of single-mode fiber optic cabling, 1,000 fusion splices and Category 5e backbone cabling for the terminal’s telephone, data, cameras and communications.

E-J connected the terminal-wide fire alarm system that interfaced between the building management system, baggage handling, mechanical, security and public address systems. It also installed the fire alarm system for the concessions and food marketplace. The fire alarm system reports directly to a central airport station, with other terminals reporting to it, allowing the airport the capability to communicate a problem to all affected terminals.

E-J also provided the electrical installation of the 15,000-foot conveyor system with integration with the security system; the control panels; and all conduit, wiring and control devices and installation of related devices, such as photo eyes, start-stop stations and motors.

The communications division at E-J, together with its partners, provided and installed an f-channel UHF trunking system and VHF-AM integrated radio and dispatch system. They also installed the fiber optic and communication system for the PA, including the JetBlue “Yellow Vault” at the Yellow parking garage. The company also installed the junction point for a fiber loop that runs through parking garages and links the airport facilities.

To accomplish all this, E-J had about 80 workers on-site at peak, doing both high- and low-voltage work. It also managed subcontractor PJS Electric, which installed the fire alarm and baggage handling system for E-J, employing 40 workers, bringing the total number of electricians at peak up to 120.

Arriving at its destination

Flights began landing at and taking off from the T5 terminal in October 2008, while final work on the $743 million, 72-acre structure was completed at the end of 2009. At that time, contractors were working on the baggage handling system and adding extras that had not been anticipated during the project. The baggage handling system was completed in early 2009; an additional international bag transfer line was the last piece of the project and was completed in November 2009.

“We were lucky to have a quality construction manager in Turner and, more specifically, [Turner project executive] Emad Lotfalla. He was decisive in making decisions and quickly turned around RFI answers as well as reviewing changes,” Lambraia said.

Monthly payments also were on schedule.

Coordination was never a serious problem, Lambraia said, and there were few delays throughout the project, though no more than normal.

“The team worked through them pretty well,” he said.

All trades had decision makers at the weekly meetings, and changes were made rapidly. The meetings process minimized the passing of drawings, he said.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at [email protected].

About The Author

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at [email protected].





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