How to deal with the “new normal” in airport development: when airport projects fly off course

Any major infrastructure project is vulnerable to going over budget, lack of stakeholder acceptance, running behind schedule, or experiencing other setbacks. Unfortunately, airport projects may run off course more often than other types of infrastructure development and construction, because they are more complicated and involve more uncertainty. This is the new normal in airport development and the situation is not expected to improve.

“Airport projects unfortunately may run off course more often than other types of infrastructure construction because they are more complicated and involve more uncertainty.”

Antony Morgan  – PWC

Why is this the situation for airports and how to deal with this ‘new normal’? This white paper will cover the challenges for airport development and the shortcomings of the conventional approach. In addition, this paper will position the concept and principles of systems engineering in airport development based on a case study. This case study involves the application of Systems Engineering from the early start, strategic planning process, and in all stages of the project.

About Lelystad airport

The case study, with Lelystad Airport expansion project as subject, is large in scope as it includes the development of multi-discipline infrastructure and construction works. The airport involves a wide variety of stakeholders and revenue sources and has a long timeline span from planning to completion, increasing the likelihood of design changes along the way. Lelystad Airport is being developed in a volatile time for air travel, in which it is difficult to predict what the airport’s needs will be in 10 years. All these aspects result in increasing complexity, which conventional approaches will not be able to address.

A new approach: Systems Engineering

Lelystad Airport has chosen to embrace Systems Engineering as a ‘new’ approach for its development, and has been already implemented it during the strategic planning phase. Systems Engineering helped Lelystad Airport to explore the context and stakeholders, as well as conceptualize the solutions in a easily comprehensible manner. Systems Engineering enhanced the life-cycle focus within the project team, while the project remained adaptable to changes in its environment. By means of SE the transitions between Lelystad Airport and its contractors were improved, while transaction costs were lowered. The information modeling and transparency of SE also provided important support during the EASA certification process.

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