A Fascination with Aerodrome Projects

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 11: Construction site at the the airport of Munich, Germany on September 11, 2019. Foto taken from the visitor platform of the airport.

Substantial aerodrome development projects and airside infrastructure works have always captivated my attention. I find the complexity, challenge and scale of such ventures to be very intriguing. Unlike other engineering arrangements of a similar proportion – for instance constructing a multi-storey car park or building a road bridge – to transform airfield characteristics or to expand the aerodrome configuration requires more than just normal architectural planning and preparation. Main reason for this is that any changing of a licensed airport’s existing operational capacity entails complex governing considerations and regulatory procedures.

On a similar note, having encountered many airport expansion and extension projects over the years, I can definitely vouch that the execution phase of major developments is more delicate when it overlaps with either passenger flows or aircraft operations. This is due to not only the customary health and safety related factors but also, because there is a plethora of applicable compliance directives that meticulously control every operational function and activity in aviation.  

London City Airport

London City Airport recently celebrated the completion of improvements to its airfield infrastructure.  The works included the construction of a full-length parallel taxiway and eight new aircraft stands in a transformation programme that lasted three years. In addition, major works improved passenger facilities in the terminal building and construction is about to finish on a digital Air Traffic Control tower. While I would like to congratulate the airport for these achievements nonetheless, I must confess that for two reasons I am very impressed with the execution of the whole project. For one, London City Airport’s vision for growth and its future role within the region is exceptional. For another, to ensure such accomplishment amid the current socio-economic circumstances is greatly admirable.

The risk involved in decisions to execute major aerodrome developments and projects is intriguing too. Often, airfield expansion deemed as necessary due to the supply-demand relationship within each airport’s market. Other times, it can be a part of the Master Plan or the airport’s emerging policy for the future. However, whatever the thinking behind the decision, we cannot forget that the aviation industry does no work independently and many factors affect airport growth. Although relevant forecasts are useful to support planning decisions, one could argue that by any means they are no guarantee of future results. Consequently, considering at the start of the project that several independent factors can affect the industry, the decision to deliver any large aerodrome project always carries a lot of uncertainty and undetermined risk. The impact of Covid-19 on civil aviation clearly illustrates this exposure to risk. As the industry came to a standstill for a long time from the pandemic, as a result, all projections and forecasts were overturned thus, airports had to re-evaluate their position about short-term strategy and business approach.  

What I have described here will help readers to understand how my captivation with major aerodrome developments and airside projects came about. It is their entrepreneurial complexity, size enormity and operational significance that I find stimulating. To those who are more familiar with the many different dynamics involved in aerodrome operations this fascination may seem obvious. To others who are less knowledgeable about the subject, an airfield environment may simply appear as an exciting setting that does not explain my appeal. Irrespective of whichever perspective though, the next time you will hear of an airport’s expansion plans, you will have much better appreciation of that project’s development. As aviation is a field that entices many people for different reasons, I would like to hear from our readers what aspect of the industry captivates their interest. Feel free to comment on this article or to forward your own interesting tale.

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