Members of the British Aviation Group (BAG) recently undertook a trade mission to China. Tom Allett talked to some of the people who made it happen.
With the rapid expansion of China’s commercial aviation industry it is no surprise that many overseas organisations are chasing potential trade opportunities.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is a government-funded unit that works with UK-based businesses to boost their success in international markets. It chairs an Airport Authority Group which meets to identify where British companies’ sales initiatives should be focused while at the same time encouraging the best overseas companies to look to the UK for all the products and services they need. UKTI has professional advisers both at home and overseas that can assist with and attend its trade missions.
The British Aviation Group, a representative body for UK companies involved in the airport and aviation development sector, has been supported by UKTI for over 15 years. Its most recent Chinese mission, between January 13 and 19, 2013, set out to visit six Chinese airports – Beijing, Qingdao, Chongqing, Nanning, Guangzhou and Hong Kong – in as many days.
The mission was based around a summary of China’s current development plans. These included the construction of the new Beijing Airport (NBIA) and another 69 new airports; and the expansion of Guangzhou, Nanjing, Changsha, Haikou, Harbin, Nanning, Lanzhou, Yinchuan and 93 other airports. Research was also planned for the building of new airports in Dalian, Chengdu, Qingdao and Xiamen while efforts to speed up the construction of new-generation air traffic control systems was also on the agenda. The goal was for the British companies’ representatives to gather firsthand information about the Chinese airport developers’ plans before explaining what they could offer in terms of products and services.
Last-minute changes to the schedule meant that Chongqing and Guangzhou were dropped from the original programme but a meeting with the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s (CAAC’s) 2nd Research Institute in Chengdu was added to the tour venues.
The tour was made possible through assistance from the British embassy in Beijing, particularly from Debbie Shi, its Senior Trade and Investment Officer, and attendees included Peter Budd, BAG’s Mission Leader and Aviation Director for Arup; Alan Buddle, UKTI’s Events and Exhibitions Manager; Andrew Scott-Green, BAG Business Specialist; Peter Marshall, Project Manager from architectural design company Aedas; Yin Liu, Head of Business Development Asia Pacific and Matthew Smith, Partner and Regional Director both from the engineering consultancy Buro Happold; Richard Fulton, Director of Business Development (Aviation); Cheng Wei, Sales Director China, and Tony Wong, Regional Sales Manager for North Asia, all from CEM Systems; Paul Willis, Head of Aviation and Caspar Baum, Head of Aviation (Asia), from build asset company EC Harris; Mike Forster, Director of the Forster Associates consultancy; Sam Wang, Senior Account Manager for security surveillance specialists IndigoVision; Nathan Zhang, Senior Vice President (Asia) for de-icing experts Kilfrost; Chris Chalk, Aviation Practice Leader for consultants Mott MacDonald; Ian Taylor, Director of Infrastructure for design engineers Arup; Alan Lamond, Director at the master planning design firm Pascall+Watson; David Morton, Aviation Business Line Director for URS Infrastructure and Environment; and Cristiano Ceccato, an associate from Zaha Hadid Architects. For all concerned the itinerary was busy, it really was a case of hitting the ground running.
Mission Leader Peter Budd told Airports International his first business trip to China was in the late 1970s and that he had been at the ‘front end’ of efforts to foster private sector relationships between British and Chinese businesses – adding that Britain is the only foreign country to have a joint working group and such a close working relationship with the CAAC.
Mr Budd described the tour as a: “door opener to the CAAC”, and paid tribute to the British Ambassador to China and the Consul General for their help. Twenty people took part – which Mr Budd believes is the largest practicable number on such a fast-paced tour.
After an overnight flight from London, the first day began with a presentation about the recently-announced New Beijing International Airport. The meeting, held at Beijing Capital Airport, outlined plans for a new 120 million passenger facility to be built to the south of the Chinese capital (see page 6 for more details) and operational by 2018. Presentations were given by 17 companies.
Then it was time to fly to Qingdao Airport. Located in Shandong Province, Qingdao is around 100 miles (160km) from China’s eastern coast with its airport about 19 miles (31km) from the city centre. Although this hub for China Eastern and Shandong Airlines was always part of the schedule, its inclusion on the itinerary was something of surprise as its name had not been mentioned in the CAAC’s most recent development plans.
Next the group flew on to Chengdu for a meeting with the CAAC Research Group at a local hotel before flying on to Nanning to hear the details of its ‘Masterplan’. The final destination on this whirlwind tour was Hong Kong, where presentations were delivered at Chek Lap Kok. This was a very appropriate location given that its 1998 opening effectively launched China’s modern airport development programme.
Looking back at the tour Sam Wang, Senior Account Manager for security surveillance specialists IndigoVision, told Airports International he felt that joining the BAG group tour was “very valuable”, adding: “We met lots of high-level officials and end-users who we could not normally meet by ourselves.
“I met the decision-maker for the Nanning Airport CCTV project which we will bid for and I hope to take part in next year’s BAG trade visit to China.”
Chris Chalk from Mott Macdonald expressed a similar opinion saying: “It gave us a good overview. I have been on a number of trade missions to China and they have all been different. It is always necessary to go back, but we covered lots of ground. I think everyone slept on the aircraft between airports, but we gained valuable information about projects and met the decision makers.”
Peter Budd said that the tour had presented a worthwhile opportunity, but visiting six venues in four days had probably been “a bit too much” and he added that future tours “may try to hit fewer targets”.
Looking forward, he said a number of companies that took part have their own staff for the necessary post-visit follow-up work – but for those that did not, “there are also various avenues available through BAG to give them a second chance”.
A BAG-led joint working group including representatives from the CAAC’s senior management will meet in London in March to continue the co-operation.
Kunming Case Study
BAG tour leader and Arup Aviation Director Peter Budd has been visiting China on business for more than 30 years. Among airport development projects he has worked on is Kunming Changshui International Airport (KCIA) which is featured on our front cover.
KCIA’s terminal is one of the world’s largest free-standing buildings and a major design and engineering project for Arup.
“This beautiful airport is the product of many years of hard work from our team,” said Mr Budd.
“From the first design sketches to the successful completion of this very significant piece of airport architecture, our Aviation Business played a central role in its creation.”
Following an international design competition in 2007, the Yunnan Airport Group chose Arup’s Masterplan for the airport.
Working closely with architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Arup was responsible for key design and engineering on the project, including the schematic design and structural elements as well as fire engineering. The airport was completed by Kunming New Airport Construction Headquarters.
The overall planning was co-ordinated from Arup’s London office, while its Toronto branch led the master plan element. This included airside and terminal planning and the landside design was conducted by its New York and San Francisco Transport Planning Infrastructure Groups. Arup’s Chicago office carried out the terminal concept design while information technology and acoustics came from New York and fire contributions from Boston. Meanwhile its Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai offices provided much local support and also managed relationships with the client and the various Chinese authorities.
Kunming, China’s ‘city of eternal spring’, aspires to become one of the country’s primary tourism, finance, industry and transportation centres. The burgeoning city of 6.5m people exemplifies economic development opportunities in China.
As Michael Kwok, Arup’s Strategic Adviser for Business Development, points out, Arup has a long-term vision for business in China “and Kunming is a key target”.
As the gateway to the city, Kunming Changshui Airport delivers an awesome first impression for travellers. The air terminal, now the second biggest in China after Beijing Capital International Terminal 3, covers an area of about 5,920,150sq ft (550,000m²). The master plan includes a major cargo facility, linked by tunnels under the taxiways.
Offering direct links to Southeast Asia and Europe, the airport is handling approximately 25 million passengers per year, expects to handle 38 million in 2020 and has a long-term capacity of 80 million.
Building an airport that achieves such demanding growth targets requires careful master-planning. “Kunming represents some of Arup’s best planning – ever,” said Peter Budd.
He continued: “The quality of the work is outstanding, I think, making it the best regional airport in China. More often than not, airports are utilitarian spaces, designed simply to get passengers in and out of an aircraft as efficiently as possible, with little aesthetic consideration. But as the images show, this is not the case for Kunming Changshui.”
Martin Landry, Arup’s Americas Leader, Airport Planning, added: “The design scheme stresses the facility’s cultural and physical surroundings. It matches traditional, local design aspects of Kunming province with state-of-the-art engineering.
“Our team designed the airport to be one of China’s showcase green industrial projects. We came up with the most environmentally-sensitive solutions.
“Arguably, Kunming Changshui is one of the first greenfield airports in the world designed along truly green principles.”
Mr Budd commented: “This was a greenfield project, so the amount of work to be done was absolutely massive,” adding: “Thousands of tonnes of limestone had to be crushed and moved to make room for the terminal and runways. Eighteen metres of elevation had to be cut from the top of a mountain.
“Limestone rock posed structural challenges, as did the cavernous underground geology. After careful investigation, we found ways to inject a variety of materials into the limestone formations to ensure stability and structural integrity.”
On top of the technical hurdles, Mr Landry pointed out that project management challenges always loomed in the background. “We faced extremely tight financial and time constraints.
“We were always under pressure to meet the client’s very high expectations of quality and value, but we had the right contacts and resources to make it a success.”
He added that the size and novelty of the design meant it was tricky to get approval for implementing the design – saying the “joy of the project” came from expressing harmony between the buildings and landscape. “I am proud to have helped develop a beautiful airport that truly matches its surroundings.”
Peter Budd summed up: “This was one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in. To see the design come together in such a short time was, quite simply, awe-inspiring.”