The mobile lounge is a system for boarding and disembarkation from aircraft, using a bus-carriage type "vehicle."
Passenger Transfer Vehicle
The Passenger Transfer Vehicle (PTS) is a prominently used mobile lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport and Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It also was formerly used at Montreal Mirabel International Airport, Mexico City Airport until 2007, and Charles de Gaulle Airport before the 1990s.
The PTS mobile lounge is a 54-by-16-foot carriage mounted on a scissor truck, capable of carrying 102 passengers. These vehicles were designed by the Chrysler Corporation in association with the Budd Company, and are sometimes nicknamed "moon buggies" due to their otherworldly appearance. When mobile lounges were first introduced, they had ramps at one end that could be raised or lowered to the floor height of an aircraft. However, after Dulles built the midfield concourses, some of the lounges were retrofitted to be used only for inter-terminal passenger transport. The ramps were removed and doors that could interlock with a terminal building were fitted to either end. Mobile lounges have a driver's cab at each end. The wheels at either end of the lounge can be steered, but the wheels at the end opposite the driver lock into a straight-ahead configuration so that the lounge is steered only by the forward driving wheels.
The Plane Mate is an evolutionary variation on the mobile lounge concept. They are similar in appearance to mobile lounges, but can raise themselves on screws (parts of which are contained in a pair of fin-like towers above the vehicles) to "mate" directly with an aircraft. These are used at Dulles and Dorval. This allows passengers to deplane directly aboard and be carried to the main terminal. They are easily identified by the different window configuration. More noticeably, plane mates have two short columns on the roof with red beacons mounted on the top, and have an accordion-like canopy at one end (similar to the canopy seen at the end of a jet bridge) and have only one driver's cab and one set of steering wheels at the canopy end.
When built, Dulles's designers thought that by shuttling from the main terminal directly to a midfield jet ramp, they could save passengers from long walking distances amidst weather, noise, and fumes on the ramp. The advent of the jet bridge and construction of the two midfield concourse buildings negated the benefits of the plane mates.
Dulles is one of the few remaining airports to use the mobile lounge/plane mate system. On January 26, 2010, the MWAA replaced the mobile lounge system for passenger movements between the Main Terminal and the A, B, and C-Gates with the underground AeroTrain. However, some mobile lounges and plane mates remain in use for passenger movements between the main terminal and Concourse D (until the replacement Concourses C and D are built and the AeroTrain is built out to run in a continuous two-way loop), to disembark international passengers from all arriving international aircraft (with the exception of United Airlines and certain Star Alliance flights, which are directly serviced at Concourse C's Federal Inspection Station; and flights from airports with border preclearance) and carry them to the International Arrivals Building, and to convey passengers between the main terminal and aircraft on hard standing (i.e., those parked remotely on the tarmac without access to jet bridges).
NASA Crew Transport Vehicles
Early in the space shuttle program, NASA used the Plane Mate system of mobile lounge to move astronauts directly from the orbiter to crew facilities. A modified vehicle obtained from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was used for shuttle landings at Edwards Air Force Base. A similar vehicle was used at the Kennedy Space Center to take astronauts directly from the orbiter to the Operations and Checkout building, where the vehicle was again lifted up for the astronauts to exit directly onto the 2nd floor of the facility.
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