DENVER — Attendance topped 600 here at this year’s ACC/AAAE Airport Planning, Design, and Construction Symposium. At this forum, a mixture of airport directors and operations managers; consultants of various design, implementation, and construction disciplines; product service vendors; and government reps meet to discuss best practices and critical issues related to airport operations and development.
Between the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee-approved FAA bill, a Senate FAA bill, and President Obama’s budget, there is currently a ‘perfect storm’ brewing on the Federal financial side of things, comments former FAA associate administrator for airports Woodie Woodward of Woodward & Associates.
Says Denver International Airport’s Kim Day, “Large airports have been getting less and less money every year. From our perspective, [Federal funding] is never going to get back to where it was.
“All of us are struggling with generating non-aeronautical revenue; it’s time for us to get creative,” she adds.
Richard Smyth, JetBlue, relates that the company is finding more and more that airport operators want more control of the facilities. “We are seeing shorter-term leases,” he says.
Day agrees, stating, “Airports in general are trying to go more towards controlling their assets, and better utilization of those assets.”
eALP and IT
There is a new paradigm in play in terms of airport layout planning, explains Randy Murphy, Grafton Technologies. What’s behind the eALP (electronic airport layout plan), says Murphy, is the ability to accumulate and utilize a great amount of data. There are currently three FAA Advisory Circulars related to eALP: geodetic control; imagery; and GIS (geographic information system) data.
Apart from producing the layout plan output, eALP also creates the power to analyze the data, remarks Murphy. In comparing the old to the new, Murphy says previously the goal was to produce a document in paper form for mapping accuracy, and there was relatively few attributes attached to the data.
“With this paradigm shift, the goal is all about the data,” says Murphy. “The point is, once you have the data, you can do so much more with it using computers. Used electronically, some of the data has a much higher accuracy because it is not only used for planning purposes, but also for flight procedure design, engineering purposes, etc.”
Murphy says with this kind of layout planning, projects will take less time. “Having this data for planning will streamline the preliminary design phase and help eliminate alternatives that aren’t viable early on; it will help get projects through the approval process so that we can build them quicker,” he explains.
In relation to IT (information technology) at airports, Faith Varwig of Faith Group, LLC says IT has changed master planning by adding another discipline that owners have to pay for, and it adds significant costs to construction programs. “Of anything that gets missed in almost every capital program I’m involved in, it’s the technology dollars; it must be accounted for up front,” explains Varwig.
“[Technology] is part of the overall program, and some of the things we’ve brought to the program are the additional alternatives in planning that we didn’t have before — we can now operate our facilities differently than we were able to in the past.
“Certainly, technology allows a greater flexibility of use; common use, quicker turns at gates, passenger processing efficiencies ... all this really improves use of the facility. At the end of the day, it also supports sustainability goals by reducing operating costs and improving efficiency.”
Technology is part of an airport’s core infrastructure now, comments Varwig. “Unfortunately our industry hasn’t done a really good job on system total cost of ownership,” she says. “We stop short in many cases in our planning efforts; we really never look at the 30-year plan ... what is this going to cost me over the lifecycle of a building? And we make decisions based on capital costs only.