Mobile lounge

Mobile lounge
A mobile lounge

The mobile lounge is a system for boarding and disembarkation from aircraft. It consists of 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, when they 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 wheels at the leading end of the lounge.

The plane mate is an evolutionary variation on the 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. This allows passengers to deplane directly aboard and be carried to the main terminal. They are easily identified by the different window configuration and two short columns on the roof with red beacons mounted on the top. Plane mates 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.

The airport'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. But the advent of the jet bridge and construction of the midfield concourses diluted the system's advantages.

Washington Dulles International Airport 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 AeroTrain. However, some mobile lounges/plane mates remain in use for passenger movements to and from the D-gates, to disembark international passengers and carry them to the International Arrivals Building, and to convey passengers to and from aircraft on hard stand (i.e., those parked remotely on the tarmac without access to jet bridges).[1]

Early in the space shuttle program, NASA used a plane mate system to move astronauts directly from the orbiter to crew facilities. A modified vehicle obtained from the Baltimore 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.[2][3]


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