Airport Systems: Planning, Design and Management
Review by Ashraf Jan
Professors de Neufville and Odani use real world examples to convincingly show the context for airport planning and design is changing fundamentally. No longer limited to technical aspects in the 21st Century, airport planners and designers should cultivate new and critical thinking on such issues as profitability, revenues, and user services. The authors have taught airport system planning both at MIT and to airport professionals for a quarter century. Both have served as consultants to airports and civil aviation organizations, worldwide. From this extensive experience, they provide excellent guidance to a wide audience.
FAA Advisory Circulars and ICAO Design Manuals contain general airport planning and design standards. The thrust of the authors’ approach is that the new context for airport system planning is commercial, no longer limited to narrow technical aspects. Influences such as airline deregulation, airport and airline privatization, a global airport industry, and advanced technology (electronic commerce in particular) require this new approach. The framework more widely concentrates on costs and revenues, stochastic traffic and risks, and operations and management.
The authors focus on large and medium size commercial airports. They write in simple language, devoid of intimidating technical jargons. Airports, worldwide, are used as examples and case studies to clarify the analysis. The authors served as consultants at many of the airports used as examples. For those interested in forecasting and simulation models and traffic flows and queuing, there is a separate “reference material.”
To consultant planners in airport planning and design firms and to those in public aviation organizations, the book provides a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of airport planning, design, and management. It encourages cultivating a new way of thinking about the issues, to avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes. The book gives valuable guidance to city and regional planners for making informed, rational decisions regarding fiscal and environmental implications of airport development projects in their communities.
The System Planning section presents an insightful discussion of airport master planning, multi airport system, and strategic planning processes. Planners have been part of these programs, funded by the FAA, since the early 1970s. The section points out the reactionary and inflexible features of master plans with a static vision of the future. It cautions planners and managers that strategic planning as practiced in business has also fallen out of favor. Planners and managers will find the lively discussion on shortcomings of forecasts, a valuable eye-opener. It documents that “forecasts are always wrong and unreliable”; therefore, plans based on wrong forecasts also will be wrong. The economically inefficient and premature over development of Paris/de Gaulle, London/Stansted, New York/Newark, and Washington/Dulles are cited as examples. Because planners must deal with forecasting in all spheres of their activities, they will find this discourse insightful.
The authors recommend “dynamic strategic planning” as an alternative. It represents a new vision for airport planning in the current environment where privatized airlines compete in a deregulated environment, and privatized airports respond proactively to perceived opportunities and threats. The basic approach is that airport operators must dynamically adjust their planning programs over time to accommodate a variety of future scenarios. Examples of airlines’ decisions to shift their bases in the deregulated environment illustrate the implications for infrastructure planning and economic effects on airport operators. The chapter on Airfield Design points out the common mistakes, including: failure to provide flexibility, overbuilding in early stages of airport operations, adopting a non- integrating approach among the various airport elements, and insufficient appreciation for economic implications of design choices. Through dynamic planning, costly mistakes could be avoided. To address the increased complexity involved, guidance is provided for the appropriate use of computer-based tools, such as decision analysis and simulation models.
Planners will also find the chapter on Environmental Impacts of interest. It covers six (aircraft noise, land use, air quality, water quality, traffic, and wildlife) out of twenty environmental categories that must be considered according to the FAA’s Airport Environmental Handbook, Order 5050.4A. These categories are among the most significant, and are well covered. The section on noise particularly provides excellent, simply presented information on all aspects of noise analysis and mitigation. This easily understandable treatment of the subject is not commonly available. While the significance of public participation is outlined, the elements and significance of environmental impact study procedural requirements are not addressed. This was perhaps intended. An outline of the requirements with reference to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA 1969) would have rounded off treatment of this subject.
For airport operators and airlines, chapters on organization and financing, user charges, and cash flow analysis provide valuable information. The authors present incisive analysis of interactions between traffic operations over time, airline schedules, and configuration and design of airfield facilities. Effects on capacity and delay are analyzed, followed by recommendations for demand management and facility utilization. The concept of capacity as a function of level of service is well articulated (de Neufville argued almost three decades ago in Airport Systems Planning (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA,1976), that airport capacity is a function of level of service and should not be viewed like the fixed capacity of a bottle).
On the landside, there is a thoughtful analysis of the design and operation of “passenger buildings.” (The authors do not call it “terminal building” because many airports, such as Chicago’s O’Hare, transfer a large number of passengers to other destinations and do not “terminate” travel.) Practical discussion covers the interests of passengers, service providers, retail operators, and government. The concepts of “shared facilities” and alternative gate operations, and their implications on design and investment in new facilities are incisively analyzed.
The section on Ground Access and Distribution provides a clear perspective on the nature of demand and the role and effectiveness of alternative modes of travel. The book critically examines the effectiveness of people movers and mechanical baggage distribution systems, cautioning the reader to avoid costly mistakes such as that at Denver International Airport.
The book covers all aspects of airport system planning, design, and management in a comprehensive and innovative manner not available elsewhere. It is a must reading for the practitioners and academics. (Journal of the American Planning Association 2004-10-11)