Article - March 2002
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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Case Study

To date, all the automation projects completed by Minnesota Control Company at MSP have been well received by the customer and have contributed to the airport receiving some very positive recognition.

David Crump
Opto 22 Marketing Communications

Minnesota's Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, located just south of the twin cities, is situated on 3,400 acres of land with two terminal buildings, 76 jet-loading gates, three runways, and over 17,000 parking spaces. Servicing 13 passenger airlines, three international carriers, and 19 freight carriers, the heavily trafficked airport serves more than 35 million passengers per year and was recently ranked as the seventh busiest airport in the country per number of passengers. 

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Domestic Hot Water Control Panel outfitted with Opto 22 SNAP controllers and I/O system.The airport is currently in the midst of its 5 year, $2.8 billion MSP 2010 plan, an expansion program encompassing improvements to the airport terminals, airfield, parking facilities, and roads. Completed renovations include the addition of moving walkways and construction of a new 3500 square foot conference center. Other improvements involve the automation of several key plumbing-related systems. For these projects, MSP has contracted the services of Minnesota Control Company.

Domestic Hot Water Control Panel outfitted with Opto 22 SNAP controllers and I/O system.

Minnesota Control Company is using a collection of Opto 22's popular serial products including the G4-B1s and SNAP-LCM4s (with fiber optic repeaters) for the automation and monitoring of the airport's domestic and retail hot water supply, that is, all water used by the main terminal and it's various concourses for the public in restrooms, restaurants, etc. This same hardware is also used in the valet parking lots automated car wash to monitor and ensure that the hot water and soap levels are adequate. 

mechanical room with the hot water plumbing systemThis photo above shows one of the numerous mechanical rooms with the hot water plumbing systems. This system is controlled by the Domestic Hot Water Control Panel.

Other critical systems at the airport now automated and controlled by Opto hardware include the aircraft waste grinder systems which are used to treat all wastewater from the aircraft's chemical toilet holding tanks before entering the city waste sewer system. There are a number of grinder stations located throughout the flight line area to perform these services for the various airlines as needed.

Also now automated is the terminal's waste cutoff control system. "Originally, all waste from the terminal would flow into large holding pits and passageways underneath the main terminal where it would then be pumped out into the city sewer system," explains Tim Fox, MSP's Foreman of Plumbing Facilities. "But with all of the recent development and expansion here, many underground areas are now being used for offices and storage. As a result, any backups in these areas would now create a severe bio-hazard and make the airport subject to scrutiny from labor unions, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, OSHA, and other regulatory agencies." 

Now that the waste cutoff control systems' using Opto-control components are installed, the system can sense fault conditions and immediately shut down all sewer and water supply lines should emergency conditions occur. "Having a backup safety system like this in place not only ensures our regulatory compliance but also gives all of us a little more peace of mind," says Fox.

roof monitoring panel using Opto 22 G4 I/O with SNAP-LCSX ControllersMinnesota Control Company has also deployed Opto systems for MSP to monitor floor drains on the roofs of all the airport buildings. "Standing water is a problem on any flat roof," says Mike Behsmann, President of Minnesota Control Company. "We have some very harsh winters here in Minneapolis, and though the airport buildings all have heated roofs, when the snow up there melts, you have to have some kind of system in place to ensure proper drainage and prevent flooding and water damage." 

Shown here is one of the many roof monitoring panels using Opto 22 G4 I/O with SNAP-LCSX Controllers.

The solution was to install proximity sensors near the drains to ensure there were no blockages. These sensors connect to the Opto G4 I/O system, which is configured to notify airport plumbing personnel when and where a drainage problems occurs.

Typical remote fiber-optic communication patch panel.Similar to the roof monitoring equipment, the same technology was modified and used in numerous catch basins, underground tunnels, and service pits underneath elevator shafts throughout the airport. In these underground areas, Opto22's SNAP equipment monitors the sump pump system and other mission critical activities and equipment.

All of this Opto-controlled and monitored system data is delivered back to a fiber optic local area network (LAN) running InTouchTM industrial automation software from WonderwareR for remote control functions plus real-time and historical statistical analysis and performance trending. Specter Instruments Win-911R and Win-411R software is used to detect the pre-defined alarm conditions and generate alert status via video, audio, pager, or standard voice telephone.

Typical remote fiber-optic communication patch panel.



To date, all the automation projects completed by Minnesota Control Company at MSP have been well received by the customer and have contributed to the airport receiving some very positive recognition. In July of 2001, the International Air Transport Association named Minneapolis-St. Paul International the best large Airport in North America and sixth best in the world for overall customer satisfaction, thanks in part to the improvements made by Minnesota Control Company as part of the MSP 2010 plan. Earlier in 2001, the Wall Street Journal, in a review of the nation's 20 busiest airports, awarded MSP a four-star rating. The publication rated the airports based on a number of factors, including the number and range of amenities available to travelers and the quality and cleanliness of the restrooms. MSP has also been praised by other international airports for its efficient snow removal operations, which have resulted in the airport being closed less than two hours a year, on average, by adverse weather.


Currently underway is the construction of two new concourses that will require two domestic hot water systems, one waste grinder system, and four more sump pump monitoring and control systems.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is on track to be completely automated by 2010. Next on the list for Minnesota Control Company are the baggage handling and terminal snowmelting equipment. To meet these challenges of automating these facilities, Behsmann says that he will gradually be turning towards Opto 22's Ethernet products. "I've been using Opto 22 hardware for over 20 years and SNAP Ethernet just offers so much more in terms of faster communication and connectivity options for automation, control and remote monitoring types of applications."

Behsmann also plans to explore the advantages of deploying Opto 22 wireless Ethernet. "We're obviously going to need FAA approval, but it's definitely something we'd like to utilize in the future."

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