CAPACITY, AND OTHER ISSUES
Airport execs see ATC, unwieldy approval processes as top challenges
By John Boyce, Contributing Editor
Space and time appear to be occupying the thoughts of a sizable segment of the population of airport executives in the U.S. nowadays. Space, in terms of landside and airside capacity; and time, in terms of the amount needed for projects designed to provide the space to alleviate capacity problems.
Larry D. Cox, A.A.E., president and CEO
of the Memphis-Shelby County (TN) Airport Authority and the current chairman
of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), summarizes the
overall concerns of many airport managers and directors by saying, "(It’s)
this constant worry about having adequate capacity within the air traffic
control system, and within the system of airports to accommodate the growth
that we have seen over the past decade and anticipate will continue over
the next couple of decades.
"It’s a daunting task and, unfortunately, we’re facing situations where the processes and the organizations are not up to the task or don’t appear to be up to the task of getting us where we need to be without having an air transportation system that is going to be approaching gridlock in the next few years. That’s the thing that concerns me the most."
While Cox and many of his colleagues are concerned about funding for their projects, even when there is no concern about money, there is an overriding frustration with the slow-moving processes, particularly those associated with environmental controls, that executives have to contend with.
"We’ve spent ten years (trying to get a runway constructed)," says Mark VanLoh, A.A.E., commissioner at Cleveland-Hopkins International Air-port, "and we’re going to finally be turning dirt probably next month (April) on a new runway. It’s something that Cleveland has needed forever. We’re so constrained here that Conti-nental is actually canceling flights to some cities. They just don’t have the capacity anymore.
"But this environmental process is a nightmare. We go through all these state agencies, we go through EPA, then we go through national. There’s wetlands, noise; it’s just incredible."
Overcapacity at curbside is a major issue for Timothy Campbell, A.A.E., executive director of Salt Lake City International Airport, particularly in light of the city hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics next February. The airport has a terminal program underway, but it won’t be completed for another eight to ten years.
"One of the aspects of being a (Delta) hub airport," Campbell says, "is that you get a peaking of arrivals and departures, which compounds the problems at curbside. You get these large crushes of people coming and going all in a short period of time, which test the curbside of even the best designed airport. Our airport, quite frankly, is over capacity (landside) right now. It is designed for half as many passengers as we’re handling today. That is giving us some challenges and we spend a fair amount of time trying to make some modifications and improvements to the curbside that, hopefully, will make things better."
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