ANNAPOLIS – By next spring, passengers and visitors at Baltimore Washington International airport no longer will tell time by the antiquated method of reading clocks with hands.
The state Board of Public Works Wednesday awarded a contract for $326,200 to a Baltimore-area company, probably ending the reign of the round, two-handed clock with black Arabic numerals on white background.
According to representatives of BWI and the winning firm, Primo Electric Co. of Lansdowne, Md., smaller, rectangular clocks with a red digital readout are the direction the airport wants to go as the millennium approaches.
Under the agreement, the company will provide BWI with 39 new clocks. Three of these will be at new locations and 36 will replace the analog clocks currently suspended from the airport terminal ceiling, said Drew Lynch, Primo Electric’s program manager for the project.
The project’s description says the new clocks upgrade “the existing BWI Master Clock System to a more accurate, self- updating antenna-based system.”
Translation? The current “Master Clock” system left a lot to be desired, said BWI spokeswoman Karen Black.
“I know some of them are broken. They’re hard to see,” Black said of the clocks. “And if there was a power failure or if they were off, we go around and change the time by hand.”
The new clocks will be user-friendly, with illuminated numbers visible from 150 feet, she added.
But keeping time at BWI is no simple matter, neither with the new clocks nor the old.
Black said officials in Greenwich, England, where Greenwich Mean Time is kept, beam an hourly signal with the correct time to “worldwide broadcast time synchronization” facilities, which in turn relay the signal to satellites.
BWI’s new system will have an antenna on the roof of the south terminal, which will catch the satellite time feed, she said.
Lynch explained that once received, a series of complex conversions will take place. Then a transmitter will shoot a “pulse” through the regular 120-volt wiring system, updating the new self-adjusting clocks and keeping all airport clocks on the same time.
Lynch added that the new clocks will be synchronized with the message boards displaying flight arrivals and departures.
Both Lynch and Black said the new clocks will be easier to maintain and that installation will be as simple as just plugging the new clocks into an outlet.
But as technologically advanced as they are, the new clocks cannot answer the question passengers want answered most: Is my plane on time?
Said Black: “It won’t impact airlines at all, but passengers may make their planes on time.” -30-