Carroll McCormick presents an update on the North American scene.
In its 173-page response to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) August 29, 2009, Notice Of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) which would set new effluent guidelines for airport de-icing operations, the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) wrote, “… the Proposed Rule is ill-advised and will result in significant negative impacts on airports and the National Aviation System, while not generating commensurate environmental benefits.”
In a nutshell, the NPRM proposes that airports with more than 10,000 departures a year must collect the de-icing fluid it applies. Airports using more than 460,000 US gallons/year must collect 60% of the de-icing fluid it uses; airports using less than 460,000 US gal/year must collect 20% of what it uses. Furthermore, urea pavement de-icer would be banned.
The reply, submitted to the EPA on February 26, 2010, goes on to say that the Proposed Rule could cripple many airports, that the EPA made arbitrary assumptions, created arbitrary collections standards, underestimated the costs and overestimated the benefits … in short, ACI-NA wants the EPA to go back to the drawing board.
ACI-NA fears that a replacement for urea could be more expensive, less effective and possibly cause flight delays and diversions. “There could be costs associated with acquiring new equipment for applying alternative pavement de-icers. Urea is pelletized and requires a certain type of equipment to spread. Alternative products may … be liquid or require different equipment than that used for urea,” says an ACI-NA spokesperson who didn’t want to be named.
Overall, the spokesperson’s condemnation of the NPRM is remarkable, with phrases such as: “grossly underestimated the costs,” “obvious oversights,” “not understanding airport financing,” peppering her reply. She adds, “EPA also miscalculated, misused methodologies, or used the wrong methodology to calculate potential impacts.”
A final ruling on the NPRM may be issued this summer.
With or without the EPA’s urging, US airports are paying increasing attention to the environmental impact they have and are working in many ways to reduce their carbon footprints. One measure of this growing focus is the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program (VALE). Established in 2003 VALE puttered along for several years, issuing just six grants by the end of FY 2007, six more in FY 2008 and seven in FY 2009. In FY 2010, however it issued 12 grants. Last October, VALE issued by far its largest grant ever: US$18.3 million to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) “to help fund construction of a pre-conditioned air project that will make Sea-Tac one of the nation’s few airports with a centralized system that covers the entire airport,” according to Sea-Tac. Intended to make it unnecessary for aircraft to run their auxiliary power units, the system aims to reduce CO2 emissions by over 50,000 tonnes a year and save as much as five million US gallons of fuel per year.
Other FY 2010 VALE grants will help fund compressed natural gas and hybrid electric/diesel busses for the Logan International Airport, a geothermal HVAC system for Portland International Jetport and a 600kW solar project for the Albuquerque International Airport.
Last August ACI-NA bestowed its Environmental Management Award on Sea-Tac for its ‘Environmental Strategy Plan – A Vision for 2010 and Beyond’. It also awarded its Mitigation Award to Southwest Florida International Airport for its wildlife management programme and its Special/Innovative Projects Award to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport for its wetland treatment system for breaking down glycol.
A particularly high-profile example of how infrastructure development can be carried out while mitigating some environmental impacts is the new, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED Gold -registered Terminal 2 at the San Francisco International Airport. The airport announced the rating last November for the 640,000 sq ft (59,458m2) terminal, which opened this April.
Highlights of the Terminal 2 environmental achievements include the reuse of construction debris, hydration stations where travellers can refill their water bottles, local organic food vendors, the use of skylights and clerestories for more natural light, improved indoor air quality while reducing energy consumption by 20%, a connection to the city’s AirTrain for easier access to mass transit and employee education about the airport’s composting programme and zero waste goal.
In March 2010 the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport completed a $10.4 million transformation of a general aviation ramp into a Group 5-category taxiway. While not an unusual idea, as far as airside schemes go, especially considering the scores of ramp, taxiway and runway projects airports have been working on with funding from the $1 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it is notable for being the impetus for the development of a LEED-like sustainability standard for airfield construction. Benefits accrued for this project include a 26% reduction in energy consumption, 16% reduction in water consumption, 26% less CO2 generated during the work, a 39% reduction in particulate matter under 10 micrometres and a 17% cost saving.
Last October Phoenix Sky Harbor reached a milestone in the construction of what it declares is the world’s first mass transit bridge over an active taxiway, when planes taxied underneath it for the first time. The Sky Train bridge is over 100ft (30.5m) high – enough for a 747 to pass underneath. The bridge will move passengers between the METRO light rail, East Economy Parking and Terminal 4.
In the ongoing story of the adoption of more energy-efficient, longer-lasting and lower-maintenance LED lights, the Raleigh-Durham Airport spent $9.4 million last year to replace 2,000 incandescent lights with LED fixtures on one of its runways. (See the following article for more information about the development of Raleigh-Durham Airport and its recently completed Terminal 2).
Construction of the Ground Transportation Center (GTC) at the Memphis International Airport is nearly 40% finished; building began in March 2010. Four levels of the seven-level structure are in various stages of completion, with work continuing on footings, columns, walls and elevated deck concrete placement, as well as under-slab electrical and utility tasks.
A new toll booth exit area between the GTC and the existing three-level parking structure has recently been completed and is already in use.
The GTC, which consolidates off-airport rental companies and parking in one seven-storey structure, will have car rental companies on the first two levels. The other five levels will have a total of 4,500 parking spaces for passengers, who will also be offered valet parking, auto detailing (deep cleaning services) and oil changes. They will get to the terminal from the GTC via an 840ft long (256m) series of moving sidewalks.
“This Center eliminates all rental busses, reduces the need for virtually all remote parking buses, and saves the rental car companies the expense of transporting their customers off airport. When you combine it with our cell phone parking lot and the improved overall entrance and exit flow, we will be eliminating a tremendous amount of traffic exhaust from the airport experience,” says Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.
Progress on the construction, which is on schedule for completion in spring 2012, can be viewed via webcam at: http://oxblue.com/pro/open/flintco/ConsolidatedGround-TransportationCenter.
Construction of the new international terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reached a major milestone in April 2010 with its topping out – the placement of the last structural steel beam. The 1.2-million sq ft (111,484m2) terminal should be finished by spring 2012.
On April 22, work on the largest terminal renovation in the history of the Lambert-St Louis International Airport was interrupted when a Force 4 storm and tornado caused extensive damage to the C Concourse and damaged jet bridges. The tornado blew out most of the windows and caused major roof damage. The airport was closed for 24 hours, and since C Concourse is now closed indefinitely, airline operations have been moved to other previously closed concourses.
The landside terminal was also damaged. “We were just putting up construction walls, but we had to use them to shore up the broken windows,” reports Public Relations Manager Jeff Lea.
The $50-million Terminal 1 renovations project includes painting, lighting, signage, directories, toilet facelifts, ticket counters, new and passenger screening equipment.
Construction is expected to finish in late 2012.
The results of a Blue Ribbon Panel for Aviation Security, were released in March this year in a 40-page document titled ‘A Better Way: Building a World Class System for Aviation Security’. The report opens with the observation that the current and enormously intrusive security apparatus operating at American airports could be more effective and cost-effective. In fact, the Panel refers to a 2010 survey that estimated that the hassles in the security system dampens enthusiasm for air travel to the annual tune of $85 billion in consumer spending and 900,000 jobs.
The Panel concluded that the aviation security system must become more traveller-focused. Among its recommendations, the Panel recommends that Congress should authorise the Transportation Security Administration to implement a new government-run risk-based Trusted Traveler (TT) programme. Privately run TT programmes, which serve passengers who have voluntarily submitted to security background checks, have already been tried and approved by travellers. They allow security personal to focus their resources on other passengers, who are considered higher risk.
Other recommendations are intended to decrease passenger wait times at the security checkpoints, improve government efficiency and cooperation with the private sector – i.e., the people and airports afflicted by the system – and use real risk management methods and tools. “The Administration should convene an external panel of experts … to review TSA aviation security programmes, assess the risk each is designed to mitigate and develop metrics for measuring progress to lessen that risk,” the Panel writes. Although the Panel does not suggest a timeline for implementing its recommendations, it does urge the government to action some of them “immediately.”
According to provisional figures from ACI, in terms of aircraft movements in 2010, the top three airports in the world remained Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. Denver moved into fourth place by leapfrogging Los Angeles, while Houston retained sixth place. Charlotte (NC) rose from ninth to seventh place and Las Vegas slipped from eighth to ninth. Philadelphia dropped from 11th to 12th place. Detroit climbed from the 17th to 14th position, and Phoenix soared from 22nd to 15th place.
By passenger traffic, Atlanta kept its number one ranking, while Chicago rose from fourth spot to third (behind Beijing) as London Heathrow dropped from second to fourth place. Houston slipped from 18th to 21st place, Las Vegas slid from the 17th to 22nd slot and Phoenix descended from 19th to 24th. Miami dropped down three to 28th.
By cargo traffic, Memphis and Hong Kong swapped spots, putting Hong Kong at number one. Louisville dropped from sixth to tenth place.
For the second year in a row passengers rated the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) the Best Airport in North America at the Skytrax 2011 World Airport Awards. Kevin Molloy, Vice President, Simplified Passenger Travel, Vancouver Airport Authority, comments, “Ease and speed of transit throughout the terminals at YVR is an attribute that, I believe, passengers value greatly about our airport. [Our] kiosks are located in more than 100 locations throughout Metro Vancouver and Whistler, and have set the international standard for a self-service check-in process that allow customers to access multiple airlines from one machine, check-in faster and avoid queues.” Mr Malloy also mentions that its Automated Border Clearance programme has reduced the average customs wait at YVR for returning Canadian citizens from 90 minutes to 15 minutes.
Asked to comment on the next frontiers of passenger requirements and desires, Malloy says: “We believe that [they] will focus on the digital realm and how it can be incorporated into operations to improve the experience of passengers moving through YVR … we anticipate a continued demand for innovative and forward-thinking programmes …”
Vancouver processed 16.8 million passengers in 2010, up 600,000 from 2009. Cargo tonnage also rose, from 198,000 tonnes in 2009 to 228,400 tonnes last year.
The Victoria International Airport saw its passenger traffic decrease marginally from 1,532,889 in 2009 to 1,514,713 in 2010. In May 2010 the Victoria Airport Authority opened its new 24,240 sq ft (2,252m2) Airside Operations Center. The C$9.7 million facility, which replaces several World War Two-vintage buildings, houses emergency response and heavy mobile equipment. It incorporates a geothermal heating and cooling system that will reduce the airport’s carbon footprint.
Calgary International Airport welcomed over 12.6 million passengers in 2010, an increase in overall volumes of 3.7% over 2009 and a new all-time high. In addition to increases in domestic and US travel, international traffic saw the largest increase at 12.9%. Calgary’s cargo facilities processed 8.1% more tonnage than in 2009. In February 2010, UPS opened a new state-of-the-art distribution facility at the airport’s Global Logistics Park. The 145,000 sq ft (13,471m2) facility was built to meet the increase in UPS business activities.
Last year Calgary continued preparations to start building a 14,000 x 200ft (4,267 x 61m) runway parallel to its existing runway 16/34. Designated as 16L/34R, major construction on the C$620 million (US$643m) project, which will include a taxiway underpass for airfield activities, began this April and should be completed by mid-2014. It also pushed along its C$1.4 billion (US$1.45bn) International Facilities Project (East Concourse) planning in 2010 and began major construction this April. It is the largest single expansion in the airport’s history. Designed to relieve above-capacity demand on the existing facilities by nearly doubling the size of the current terminal, it should be finished by 2015.
The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) launched a web-based parking reservation system using the Parkspace online pre-booking solution by Chauntry Corporation, a Berkshire, England-based provider of enterprise resource planning systems. Passengers who pre-book parking, and optional valet service, use a 3,300-car parking lot built especially for the project. The airport also constructed a 3,000 sq ft (279m2) area where passengers can check in and where WestJet passengers can check their luggage. Furthermore, EIA announced that Hangar Development Inc, broke ground on a 90,000 sq ft (8,361m2), C$20 million (US$20.7m) hangar and office building, and revealed that Airside Properties Ltd, will build a 300,000 sq ft (27,871m2) aviation complex for aircraft storage and maintenance. It will accommodate aircraft as large as the Boeing 737/Airbus A320 family. Land servicing (surveying) was completed last year and contractors broke ground this spring.
Passenger traffic at Winnipeg International Airport slipped from 3,379,440 in 2009 to 3,369,974 in 2010. By the end of 2010 the airport’s new 548,959 sq ft (51,000m2) air terminal building was 90% complete.
The Ottawa International Airport reported an improvement in traffic numbers of 5.7% over 2009 to a record-breaking 4,473,894 passengers. This is its third straight year of what the airport calls “significant” growth.
Toronto Pearson International Airport, the only Canadian airport to make the world top 30 list, rose from 20th place to 18th, logging 31.8 million passengers in 2010, a 4.9% increase from 2009. Last August Pearson changed its for-fee WiFi service to a free service. It also announced a five-year, C$130-million (US134.5m) agreement to outsource its airport technology and services to IBM, for “additional efficiency for airline and tenant support.” Pearson also won the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Eagle Award for Most Improved Airport last June: IATA cited the airport’s third consecutive year of reduced landing and terminal charges.
Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport set a 2010 traffic record with 12,971,229 passengers – a 6.1% increase over 2009. Of note is that the airport’s rent to Transport Canada skyrocketed by C$15.2 million (US$15.7m), to C$37.9 million (US$39.2m), almost the exact amount of the airport’s revenue shortfall over expenses.
Carroll McCormick presents an update on the North American scene.