Emergency VFD Fix for United Airlines

Featuring: Gary Tudor | Application Engineer | Elk Grove Village, IL
Author: Amy Albright
This article was previously published in the December 2016 edition of the Crescent Wire.

Heroes happen anywhere. Sometimes, they are just the right people in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. Consider the United Airlines saga for Gary Tudor, Application Engineer for Crescent Electric of Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

Photo Credit: http://airportinforme.blogspot.com/2015/09/san-francisco-international-airport-san_19.html

Photo Credit:

United Airlines had an SRS (Storage Retrieval System) line break down in its San Francisco Terminal, due to an obsolete VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) failure. This system stores parts for emergency reparations while aircraft are still at the terminal gate and is required for quick part retrieval as well as keeping accurate inventory.

With the line down, United personnel were walking the aisle and climbing ladders in order to restock and retrieve components, plus, the computer system was not designed for manual entry for inventory control.

United Airlines approached the equipment manufacturer, who was not able to assist in the replacement of the VFD. The manufacturer had acquired the actual manufacturer of the obsolete SRS system and, over the years, all original drawings and software for the system had been lost.

United also brought in other vendors who installed different VFDs to replace the original EMS with no success. United in San Francisco contacted United Headquarters in Chicago, IL, about the line being down for almost three months, with no solution in sight.

Crescent Electric in Elk Grove Village had been implementing VFD solutions for United in Chicago and Newark already. Based on United's success with Crescent Electric and the critical nature of the system, Gary Tudor was sent to San Francisco to work on the SRS. He installed an ATV71 in place of the failed EMS drive, then found the issue everyone else was having with a simple drive substitution. No on-site personnel were familiar enough with the old control wiring to correctly interface the ATV71 into the SRS system, plus the controller for the SRS was a SLC500 (with which no one was familiar) and required modification. So Gary assisted with wiring in the ATV71, modified the SLC500 user software, and programmed the ATV71 for their specific application. Gary recalls the ordeal with gracious humor.

"The worst part was that, by the time I was contacted, United was becoming more desperate for the repair and time was creeping up on Thanksgiving. United immediately flew me to SFO to start the repairs, and I ultimately worked through Thanksgiving weekend. The other bad part was that, from where I was working, the only food available was from a Starbucks. (I haven't had another one of their turkey sandwiches since.)"

Gary Tudor | Application Engineer | Elk Grove Village, IL.

Gary Tudor | Application Engineer | Elk Grove Village, IL.

In August of this year, another line at San Francisco went down and United immediately contacted Crescent Electric in Elk Grove Village. Gary flew out and repaired that line, which was having a different, yet similar, problem installing another drive from Schneider Electric.

This story has a happy ending. Crescent Electric is now recognized by United Airlines as their go-to source for VFD support and is currently involved in their baggage system upgrade in Chicago, Newark, and Houston. The combined number of VFDs, which are being built into assemblies, will be over 1,000!


Do you need assistance with VFDs? Contact your local Crescent Electric branch today.


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