Plane at an airport

Airports that work

People people: Angus Leitch

Angus Leitch

With over 20 years of experience, Angus has worked on a range of civil and defence aviation projects, including Perth and Adelaide International Airports, Jandakot and Parafield Airports, RAAF Curtin and RAAF Edinburgh Aircraft Research and Development Unit, and shared airports -- including RAAF Darwin/Darwin International Airport and RAAF Learmonth/ Learmonth Airport.

Strongly experienced in leading and coordinating multidisciplinary design teams, Angus has also been involved in various projects for Perth Airport’s Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Here, he shares his observations from his aviation project experience.

The challenges of maintaining operations during major capital works at airport sites

The Qantas Terminal Upgrade in Perth, Australia, has been one of the most challenging airport projects I’ve worked on. With a limited budget, my team was responsible for designing an engineering solution that could be constructed in and around the Qantas site with no disruptions to airline operations allowed.

It was crucial to both understand and put the client’s operational needs at the centre of the design solution. By doing so, my team was able to successfully deliver the project without the construction programme causing any delays to flight schedules and other airline operations.

Maintaining operations during construction works is a challenge for any airport. However, thorough and careful planning during the concept design and development you can think through construction staging at the time of design which, in turn, allows for incremental construction works.

Also, you can identify potential construction issues that may impact normal airline operations and the impact of any identified issues on the overall building programme.

Airports are risk-averse sites. Flight delays, poor weather, communication issues, and operational interruptions are a few of the risks associated with daily operations. Mitigating the risk of any controllable interruptions to the operators’ airline clients operations, passenger movements and revenue needs to be at the fore of any engineering or design team's planning and construction programme.

It’s about understanding what drives the client’s business case, to develop the engineering solutions that respond to the client’s needs

Commercial airports are highly competitive among one another. Whether it’s generated from passenger landing charges, retail activity in the terminal or from car parks and hotels, airport operators want to generate the maximum amount of revenue from the maximum number of airlines, flights and -- most importantly -- passengers through their doors.

Airports are designed from the runway and aircraft operations through the parking bays, through the terminals and into the corporate, with each step of the design path being individual. As such, terminal construction can significantly impact upon airport operations, including lengthy flight delays. It’s important to build a team of people with the skills, expertise and knowledge of landside and airside operations. Similarly, that team needs to design solutions that respond to those operational requirements.

Finally, commercial airports are retail centres and need to be regarded as such throughout any concept planning, design and construction works at airport sites. Airport operators derive a significant portion of revenue from its retail spaces, including car parks and buildings. Any design solution needs to maximise retail spaces for retail operators, whilst being cognisant of the emotional investment that every traveller or their families and friends leave at an airport.

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