El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia, is the first in Latin America to receive a ground run-up enclosure. Caroline Cook reports.
As the largest cargo airport in Latin America, and the third largest for passenger traffic, it is important that El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia, maintains its reputation in the region.
The airport is managed by Operadora Aeroportuaria Internacional (OPAIN) SA, a consortium of Colombian construction and engineering firms and Swiss Flughafen Zürich AG. Since winning the 20-year contract to operate the airport in 2007, OPAIN has endeavoured to modernise and upgrade El Dorado, in order to continue handling almost half of Colombia’s air traffic.
In 2010, El Dorado handled 526,844 tons of cargo, a 16.9% increase on the 450,315 tons seen in 2009. Similarly, 18.8 million passengers used the airport in 2010, compared to 14.8 million the year before. In fact, this 26.8% growth rate was commended by the Airports Council International in its 2010 Traffic Report for the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
With an investment of US$650 million from the Colombian government, OPAIN has made several changes to the airport. New international terminals have been built, baggage handling systems installed and an office building constructed.
The consortium declares on its website that it has a social responsibility in the city to contribute to the development, welfare and quality of life of neighbouring communities. Therefore, when OPAIN built a new maintenance area on the west end of the airport, it included an aircraft run-up facility with a sound barrier, the latter of which was designed and built by Nevada, USA-based Blast Deflectors, Inc (BDI).
This ground run-up enclosure (GRE) is the first installed in Latin America and was completed in May 2011. It provides a safe and convenient location for ground run-ups while minimising the acoustic impact of the engine tests on the nearby communities of Funza and Fontibón.
OPAIN contracted BDI for its GRE services after the Colombian Environmental Ministry passed Resolution 627 in April 2006, creating stringent day and night-time noise regulations on the airport. At the time, open field engine tests at El Dorado produced noise levels of more than 90 decibels, which far surpassed the limits stipulated by Resolution 627.
The three-sided, open-top GRE was constructed close to the end of Runway 13R, where open air run-ups at El Dorado were previously performed.
The company was actively involved in the early stages of the project and performed an analysis of the area. This included a study of wind in order to identify the optimal facility orientation, which is critical in ensuring both the maximum usability and best acoustic performance of the GRE.
As general contractor for the project, BDI worked closely with OPAIN to resolve potential issues prior to construction. Don Cipriano, Project Manager for BDI, commented: “Working as a general contractor created both logistical and cultural challenges for us.
“Our facilities are prefabricated to eliminate any site-cutting and welding to reduce installation time. This required us to coordinate heavily with OPAIN and Colombian government agencies.”
Juan Pulido, General Director of OPAIN, explained how quickly work on the GRE was completed, following time constraints set by the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority, AeroCivil. He said: “The project had a very limited schedule for the construction phase which required us to work very closely with BDI throughout the entire process to meet the AeroCivil deadline. The total construction of the facility lasted four months.”
Aerodynamic stability is a key factor in designing and constructing a GRE. BDI’s patented Stabile Flow GRE at El Dorado incorporates acoustically-treated vented side walls and other aerodynamic features to provide “smooth, turbulence-free airflow” to the engines. The technology even has optimal use in some cross-wind and tail-wind conditions.
Don Bergin, Director of Technical Sales for BDI, said: “All of BDI’s facilities have achieved usability at or above specified levels.” More than 20 Stabile Flow facilities have been constructed around the world so far.
El Dorado’s GRE also incorporates 2,800 patented Noise Blotter acoustic panels, which are a key element in all BDI installations.
These panels are specifically designed to absorb the low frequency noise generated by aircraft engines. This technology ensures that run-ups at El Dorado do not exceed the noise levels specified by Colombian environmental regulations.
The Avianca Airbus 330 that was used to test the new GRE surpassed the specified noise attenuation required by OPAIN and Aerocivil.
Since the facility became fully operational, the airport has passed a resolution requiring all run-ups to be conducted inside the facility.
The author would like to thank Don Bergin from BDI for his help with