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Promega Corporation’s Flight Department – A Large Hangar With A Small Footprint

Promega Aircraft Hangar - Madison, Wisconsin
Promega Aircraft Hangar – Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is known for many things:  Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers, Cheese Heads, Dairy, Cranberries, Beer, The World Snowmobiling Championships, Unique Accents, Midwest Hospitality, and Biotech Firms.  Yes, you read correctly.  Biotech is a booming industry in the state of Wisconsin.  On the leading edge of this boom is a privately held company called Promega Corporation.  Headquartered in the city of Fitchburg on the outskirts of Madison, Promega has become the worlds largest privately owned biotech firm with offices and research facilities spanning the United States and fifteen other countries around the globe.  Promega and its 1,200 employees offer thousands of products in support of the life sciences.

Promega is a very proactive corporation when it comes to “environmental, social, and economic impacts.”  “Sustainability” is a word commonly used within the environmental movement but from Promega’s perspective, “Corporate Responsibility” regarding these three attributes is a more “appropriate term.”  Promega’s CEO William “Bill” Linton stated the following:

“We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift, and it is imperative that we change our perspectives regarding our relationship to our natural resources, animals, plants and each other. We need to learn how to bridge the gulf between our thinking, our beliefs, and the wisdom that is in Nature everywhere we look. We only have to open our eyes, and see in a new way. It is a new partnership forged between the human species and every element of nature. It is time to open the doors and look for the answers that are all around us.”

Samples of Promega’s “Corporate Responsibility” can be seen within the surrounding communities and its corporate offices.  Socially, Promega’s employees regularly volunteer to support local community-based efforts.  With respect to the environment, Promega has invested its energies in prairie restoration and its very own community garden.  The community garden, and its two areas, is special in two ways.  The first area provides produce for its catering efforts.  The second area provides a place for Promega employees to plant and manage their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs for their personal and family needs.

Promega’s “Corporate Responsibility” carries over to the business side of the company, too.  Over twenty years ago, Promega adopted reusable shipping containers and were the first in their industry to do so.  More recently, Promega launched a “Pipette” recycling program that has diverted more than 4,000 lbs of plastic destined for a landfill.  U.S and European facilities regularly purchase electricity from renewable sources.  Economically, Promega makes regular strides to use local suppliers.     And finally, when Promega organized its own corporate flight department, it gathered a fleet of some of the most fuel efficient aircraft in the world and built a hangar that would be right at home in Disney World’s “Tomorrowland” by embracing “the answers that are all around us.”

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Promega’s new corporate flight facility broke ground in 2009 at the Dane County Regional Airport (KMSN) just north of the single FBO serving the field.  Bascon Engineering (Ohio) and Kraemer Brothers LLC (Plain, WI) worked very closely with Promega to ensure the final design and function of the facility would support Promega’s “Corporate Responsibility” and mission of the flight department.

Promega’s flight department and flight facility was developed to meet the global needs of Promega and its customer base. The mission of the aircraft and facility is to provide their customers with efficient access to Promega’s Madison campus where scientific collaborations and business meetings can take place. In addition, the facility also serves as a gateway for Promega team members to reach their customers’ scientists and technicians nearly anywhere on the globe at a moments notice.

Heating and Cooling

The hangar may be a place to launch flights high into the upper atmosphere but one of the keys to heating and cooling the air and water in this facility begins 350 feet below terra firma.   Seven geo-thermal wells were installed underneath the current parking lot.  These wells act as giant, two-way heat exchangers.  In simple terms, during the winter months the soil remains well above freezing and this heat energy is extracted from the earth to assist heating the building.  During the summer, the opposite is true as the soil is cooler than the above ground temperature.  Warm fluid (ambient air temperature) is pumped through the circuit and heat energy is transferred back to the ground.  When the fluid returns, it has been naturally “chilled” and is incorporated into the air conditioning system.  This system complements standard heating and cooling systems and greatly reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and emissions.

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Electricity

The “subterranean” solution to the hangar’s heating and cooling needs is matched by an equally aggressive array of photovoltaic (solar) panels located 35 feet above the earth.  The roof is where 250 individual solar panels have been installed.  Each panel is capable of producing 235 Watts individually or 58.75 KW cumulatively.  Since the system went live in October of 2010, the system has produced 103,540 Kilo-Watt Hours and averted 70 tons of CO2 emissions.

Aircraft_Hangar_Active_Solar_PanelsThe solar panels are able to offset over 1/3 of the electricity consumed by the facility.  The remaining electrical power is supplied from renewable sources through the local power company.  At times when the output of the solar panels exceeds the building’s demand, the surplus electricity is fed back to the grid.

Lighting and Air Circulation

Located just beneath the solar panels under the ceiling are high-efficiency fans and fluorescent lighting.  The fans are manufactured by Rite-Hite.  These particular fans have an individual wingspan in excess of 20 feet and move tremendous amounts of air thus keeping the hangar environment free of unequal thermal zones.  The fluorescent lighting, along with the highly reflective hangar floor provides all the necessary lumens needed to perform work above and below the aircraft.

In addition to all of the energy efficient features that have been employed, Promega included many other features that make managing the aircraft, the hangar, and the individuals that come through the facility just that much easier.

Heated Floors

Tied into the geothermal heating/cooling system is a circuit of tubing that rests directly under the hangar door as well as out onto the apron.  Heating the concrete in these locations prevents ice and snow build up eliminating the need to shovel or plow, provides sure footing for crew and passengers, guarantees 100% traction for the aircraft tow vehicle, and provides a clean track for hangar door operation.  Any moisture that collects will soon evaporate even during the coldest temperatures.  Another benefit of a heated door track is the prevention of corrosion.

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Flushable Floor Drains

An immaculate floor coating may be beautiful Aircraft_Hangar_Floor_Drain_Flushto look at but it requires continuous cleaning with mops or automated floor scrubbers.  Under normal circumstances, wastewater is discarded into the floor drains.  The problem here is that FOD ends up clogging the drain causing thewater to stagnate and be the source of unpleasant odors permeating throughout the hangar.  To remedy this, Promega installed a system that will purge the drain channels.   When a dedicated set of valves are opened, water under high pressure purges the entire drain channel keeping everything clean and preventing foul odors.

 

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Reverse Osmosis

Washing a Cessna Mustang and a Falcon 2000 EZ are no small tasks.  To assist in this task, Promega installed a reverse osmosis system to remove all minerals and hardness from the city’s water supply.  Once the aircraft have been washed, rinsing with the treated water and allowing the aircraft to “air dry” is all that is needed.  Because water treated by reverse osmosis is absolutely pure, it leaves no water spots when it dries thus eliminating the need to dry the airplanes with towel or chamois.

Indoor parking for crew and passengers

Winters in Wisconsin can be brutal with sub-zero temperatures and snowfall events measured in feet.  Therefore the hangar was equipped with nine indoor parking stalls along with a wash bay (reverse osmosis rinse water) so cars are clean, warm, and free of ice and snow when passengers return from a trip.

Dedicated Floor Drain For Lav Waste Disposal

Promega revealed some ingenuity to address an essential, but less than desirable post-flight activity:  draining the aircraft’s onboard lavatory. Once the aircraft’s lavatory has been serviced with a dedicated lav cart, the cart itself must be emptied.  The traditional scenario is burdensome.  But through an ingenious adaptation of “black” and “grey” water disposal facilities commonly found at RV parks and campgrounds, emptying the cart’s contents becomes as simple as a flush.

The dedicated floor drain and flush handle is conveniently located along the hangar’s interior wall. The floor drain is surrounded by a concrete berm and can be flushed with a conventional “Eljer” handle.  When emptying the contents of the lav cart, all one has to do is lay the hose directly in the floor drain and let gravity take over.  Pulling the flush lever washes away everything and provides fresh water for the p-trap thus preventing any fumes from escaping.  A brass plate covers the receptacle when not in use.

As impressive as Promega’s new flight facility may be, it is just the tip of Promega’s “Corporate Responsibility” iceberg.  The next time you are flying into KMSN, take a look to the east side of the airport near the beginning of Runway 22. Look for the beige hangar outfitted with all the solar panels on the roof.  Its physical size is hard to miss.  It’s carbon-footprint, however, is not.

HangarSphere would like to thank the individuals at Promega for their enthusiastic participation and making this article possible. In addition, we would also like to thank everyone at Kraemer Brothers for clarifying many details of the construction process and for contributing photos of the construction process.

Article Originally Published In HangarSphere’s Sept/Oct Issue 2012

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