11.06.2015 : John Marsh

Pressure, pressure, pressure

This growing population has a strong desire to travel, and already by 2014 over 60% of those journeys were by air. Passenger aircraft numbers in service will double to more than 34,000 aircraft.

It is exciting to read time and time again how airline travel is set to exponentially increase over the decades to come. And no more so than in the South East Asia region which touches us so closely here in Australasia.

In the latest Airbus annual Global Market Forecast, we’re told that the percentage of middle class people in the world will have increased from 33% today to over 60% by 2033. And that 66% of that middle class in 2033 will live in the South East Asia region. This growing population has a strong desire to travel, and already by 2014 over 60% of those journeys were by air. Passenger aircraft numbers in service will double to more than 34,000 aircraft.  Fantastic news for airports, airlines, aviation professionals and the like!

Similarly, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in their 2014 Passenger Growth Forecast predict that annual passenger numbers will more than double from 3.3 billion today, to reach 7.3 billion by 2034. Again, fantastic news for the aviation industry that I’m proud to be a part of, but what does this all mean?

Many others have and will write about the impacts on airlines, airport hubbing, codeshare alliances and new longer routes, not to mention the number of new airports that will be built over the next 20 years. Airbus predict there will be almost 50 new aviation mega cities built by 2033.

So what are the implications on our existing airport infrastructure assets? It means pressure. Big pressure. Pressure in three key areas.

Firstly it means pressure on our existing airfield pavement assets. Aircraft up-gauging and efficiencies unfortunately mean higher wheel loads, larger wheel sets and higher tyre pressures. The new Airbus 350-900 has wheel loads of over 33 tonnes and tyre pressures close to 1.7MPa. Putting this in perspective, a large percentage of existing airfield pavement systems were designed for loads of half this size - and trust me the scale isn’t linear!

What to do?  Monitor condition regularly, plan ahead and budget for some significant pavement upgrade programmes of work.

How will you stage these works? What redundancies do you have in your airfield network? Can you recycle or re-purpose your existing facilities? All serious questions to be answered.

Secondly it means pressure on your utility assets, and the capacity of your core utility networks to continue to deliver services to the increasing number of aircraft, passengers and stakeholders alike. Fuel flows and volume, high voltage electrical capacity, stormwater disposal with hectares of new sealed pavements, water supply capacity to your terminals and support buildings.

I recommend a systematic assessment of the condition and capacity of all your airport utility asset classes. Then follow this with a masterplan for how you will replace existing utilities at the end of their lives, together with how you will extend, expand and fund these networks to accommodate the expected future growth over the next 20 years.

And thirdly it means pressure on the capacity of your airport terminals and passenger processing capabilities. And here’s where it gets clever... This doesn’t simply mean an endless expansion of larger and larger terminal building footprints and floor areas. It means getting smarter.

Just look where the recent developments in kiosk check-in, self-managed bag drops and smart security processing have taken us. Fortunately most airports have foreseen these technology solutions and stopped the endless check-in desk area extensions just in time.

But what other smart solutions are available to re-use or re-purpose your existing terminal areas or to improve processing efficiency? What other efficiencies can you adopt?

At Beca we are proud of our application of continuous improvement analysis techniques to multi-agency airport processes and stakeholders, using real time data to improve processing flow and staff allocation for peak times. So no need for that costly terminal building expansion after all.

In summary there is pressure coming - big pressure! But with some forward planning and the adoption of technology solutions to meet stakeholder needs, this pressure can be converted to welcome opportunities.

How are you planning to deal with this pressure?

About the Author

John Marsh

Group Market Leader - Airports

John is responsible for driving the growth and success of the Airports business accross Asia Pacific. Over the past 20 years, he's provided extensive strategic airfield infrastructure and airport asset management advice to major clients across Australasia. John is a recognised expert in airport pavement assessment, design and management.

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