AVION REVUE Magazine.
Airport Design and Planning Manager
– Is the word “Solutions” in the name AERTEC Solutions a declaration of intentions? How would you define the services your company provides to the airport sector?
Effectively, it is. AERTEC Solutions’ value proposition is backed by the thorough knowledge the company has of the aerospace industry, airports and air transport through developing an extensive portfolio of solutions through our two business lines: aerospace industry and airports. In the specific case of the airport sector, our services cover the entire life cycle of an airport, including: conception, design, development and operation of its facilities and operations, along with the implementation and integration of all the systems involved in them. One of our main strengths is specialisation. This has allowed us to position ourselves very clearly and provides us with huge differential value because clients perceive us as experts who need no further explanations about the airport sector’s peculiarities, because we know them as well as they do. Our experience of international airports offers us a complete overview of the sector and the technical knowledge needed to face ever more demanding challenges successfully. All of this is done with a multidisciplinary workforce that is capable of integrating all of a project’s relevant aspects and drawing up tailored solutions for each player involved in the airport. In this regard, we cover all the facilities that coexist in an airport site (runways, control towers, terminals, ancillary buildings), as well as any external elements that have some kind of impact on it.
– What percentage of your business is shared out between consulting and engineering?
Most of our projects are initiated with a consulting phase and then they become an engineering project. A good example of this would be one of our latest projects in Belgium, where we started our work with the Master Plan project and the design of the Charleroi Airport enlargement. At present, we are involved in the designs for the new terminal and the new control tower.
– How would you define your company’s strategy with regard to the passenger’s experience?
An airport for our company is a place for people, a place that should inspire tranquillity and comfort in passengers. That is why our participation always contributes to generating a much more pleasant and natural experience of use. Our way of addressing projects in this area goes beyond a merely technical view and we also provide human involvement, which is materialised from the planning and design stage of airport infrastructures to their operation. In addition, we offer our knowledge and ability to innovate in order to complete the designs we tackle with specific technology solutions that arise from our consulting work. We listen to all the players that carry out their activities at the airport, who are the ones that provide us with clues to establish what is needed before seeking the way to place it into practice. This way of working with “turnkey” solutions has meant that we have an extensive portfolio of in-house technology products aimed at improving the passenger’s experience (information points equipped with touch-screen technology, automated gateway management systems, passenger flow controls, etc.).
– And how would you define your strategy regarding the airport manager’s experience?
As I said before, an airport’s infrastructures should respond to passengers’ many needs and demands. However, they should also ensure the safety and speed of the operations and activities carried out by the airport manager. The results of these processes and activities should always be accurate, effective and safe, thereby ensuring targets are attained and the functional needs for which they have been developed are met to thus ensure their profitability. Because we are aware of this, at AERTEC Solutions we have always stood out for our ability to provide services that allow the operational quality of the processes and activities connected with the different functional areas of airport operations to be controlled, analysed and improved, including: Operations, Services, Security, Retail Activities and Maintenance.
– What solutions does AERTEC Solutions provide for operational airport management? Are your solutions geared at the landside area or do they also cover the airside area?
AERTEC Solutions has a wide range of services and solutions in the area of airport operations for the landside area as well as for the airside area. Among them, we could highlight managing the entry into operation, analysis and monitoring of service quality levels; airport operating procedures and manuals; operational safety management systems; airport activity engineering services; and the design and implementation of technology solutions specifically aimed at optimising airport operations.
– With regard to airport infrastructures, you have an extensive global presence. Could you tell us something more about your projects in Europe? And in Latin America?
Globalisation has been another of the great wagers our company has placed right from the start. AERTEC Solutions was founded in 1997 and only four years later it achieved its first international contract. Since then, international expansion has been a constant element and today we are a multinational company with offices in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. We have carried out projects in sixteen countries spread out across the five continents and we have references from more than 70 international airports. This progress can be seen in the growth of our projects abroad, which now account for 75% of the company’s airport business turnover. Among these projects, the work we have carried out for British and Irish airports – like Heathrow, Birmingham, Luton, Cardiff, Kerry and Shannon –, for Belgian airports – like Charleroi and Liege – and for the Turkish airport of Sabiha Gokcen stands out. Our aim is to continue expanding our presence in Europe and North Africa. We are currently focusing on the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, France and Morocco, although we also hope to expand our activities into other of the company’s strategic areas, like South America, where we have already carried out some projects in Panama, Colombia and Bolivia.
– Brazil is a country with large needs in this sector; do you have any current projects there? Does having a strong presence in Portugal help you?
Brazil is one of the world economy’s emerging countries that offers the best business opportunities, not only in the airport area but also in aeronautics, the other division in our company. We are currently not carrying out any projects in Brazil. However, in 2013, we provided advisory services to investors to develop an institutional strategy in the country’s airport market. Our intention is to continue growing in Latin America in the medium term and Brazil is one of our target countries. Evidently, our experience in Portugal can help us a lot, as it shares many trade and industrial ties with Brazil. Furthermore, our company is currently taking part in a contract involving the new KC-390 military transport aircraft for the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer in Portugal.
– What is the differential factor AERTEC Solutions provides in the airport area?
As I mentioned before, it is without doubt the thorough knowledge our professionals have of the area and of the business processes connected to it. This allows us to act as consultants that provide innovative and particularly suitable solutions to the specific needs which each of our clients may broach at any one time, be it at the airport’s conceptual stage, development stage or operational stage, regardless of the role played by whoever may contract us at the airport.
– Feasibility studies on airport infrastructures have been very much placed into question in Spain. What’s gone wrong?
During the first half of the 2000s, there was highly significant growth in passenger traffic in Spain, due in part to the success of low-cost airlines. This fact meant that the traffic forecasts which were drawn up at the time took this factor very much into account and they assumed there would be sustainable passenger traffic growth rates in the medium and long term with ratios exceeding twice the GDP growth forecasts. However, global passenger traffic growth stagnated as from 2008 due to the economic crisis and then decreased, despite the fact that low-cost airlines continued to increase their market share. The problem is that the traditional carriers have lost traffic and have had to redesign their commercial strategies around user preferences in air transport. Hence, at the level of private initiatives, airports have stagnated as they saw their ability to generate revenues from traffic curtailed; and, at a public level, very high investment levels have been maintained, instead of being adapted to real traffic. To summarise, traffic forecasts and the strategy to adapt airport infrastructures to that new reality have both failed.
– Is the application of current airport security measures adjusted to reality?
This is without doubt one of the major problems we are facing in the airport sector, given that it has a direct impact on the quality of service perceived by the passenger. I feel that technology has progressed a lot in the field of detecting potentially hazardous materials and that in the coming years we will see how legislation and technical means will make the passenger’s experience much more pleasant in all matters having to do with security.
– The progress of technology should lead to less person-to-person checks and a greater use of electronic systems. Are there any new measures that will be applied (passenger flow management, iris recognition, etc.)?
Technology will undoubtedly improve and speed up security checks at terminals. As a matter of fact, innovative products are being presented at international trade fairs with this aim in mind. However, these new products have to go through a long complex process of validation by the relevant authorities and pass through numerous formalities before they can be used in airports. In addition, they make use of very expensive technology. The change will therefore not be as rapid as all users would like.
– Perimeters at many airports are still vulnerable (inadequate fencing, watercourses between runways, excessive vegetation causing fire hazards, etc. Don’t you think that so many measures in terminals are at odds with the few external controls around runways?
In my opinion, the State Agency for Air Safety is making a great effort to ensure that airport infrastructures, especially on the airside area, comply with all the regulations which apply. We can see how operational safety at airports is being substantially improved through the implementation of Operational Safety Management Systems. A large number of airports have already attained ICAO certification (Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Palma, etc.) and the other airports are making the necessary efforts to attain such certification in the next few years. I therefore believe that all the necessary efforts are being made to offer passengers a SAFER service, and here I am underlining SAFER from the point of view of both security as well as operational safety. Now we just need to achieve a better passenger experience (quality of service), while maintaining those security and safety standards.
– How would you situate Spanish airports in this respect as compared to the situation of other neighbouring countries/regions?
In my opinion, the quality of Spain’s airport infrastructures is on a par with those of other European Union countries like the UK, Ireland and Belgium. As a matter of fact, the quality of infrastructures at AENA’s small airports or those having lower traffic levels is striking, exceeding the European average. This is due to the fact that AENA standardises its facilities’ technical specifications, which has had a positive repercussion on smaller airports. It is not difficult to find small airports in Europe where the perimeter fencing is inadequate or where vegetation grows freely on the runways. In this regard, we have a top-quality airport network, including the small airports, whose facilities reflect the high levels of investment made by AENA over the last 10 years.
– The number of incidents on airport runways and aprons continues to be high despite all the measures that have been taken. What’s failing? What can AERTEC Solutions contribute?
The effective implementation of operational safety management systems at airports is helping to bring about more exhaustive monitoring and investigation of the incidents that come about and of the causes that lead up to them. The aim is to take the necessary measures to reduce the number of incidents and avoid accidents. At AERTEC Solutions we have been working on the implementation of A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance & Control Systems) which integrate radar control and monitoring systems for aircraft and their procedures in real time. AERTEC Solutions is making an effort of show our clients the advantages offered by these systems and make them see the range of options of this kind that the specialised market is beginning to offer to airports. In my opinion, our work in this regard is essential.
– The use of LED lighting is being imposed as an important energy saving measure. Are you involved in any projects that use this or other kinds of energy rationalisation measures in our country? Is this parameter taken into account when a new airport facility is designed?
We defend the development of sustainable engineering and this entails, on the one hand, designing infrastructures that make maximum use of natural resources (especially at airport terminals) and, on the other, the use of elements that are energy efficient. For the airside area of airports, we started to recommend the use of LED technology in marking lights at Dublin Airport in 2005 and, shortly thereafter, for the apron’s lighting systems. This technology is spreading around the world and leads to a substantial improvement in consumption, as well as in durability and visibility. The case of passenger terminals is the same. However, in this case, it is even more critical, given that the lighting is turned on almost all the time. Energy consumption savings are therefore much more evident. In addition, the fact of recommending and including the installation of this kind of technology in our projects helps airport operators to optimise their running costs in the short term.
– You are going to take part as a speaker at the Passenger Terminal Expo next month. Can you tell us what the basic ideas of your paper will be?
My participation at the Passenger Terminal Expo will focus on a lecture about airport safety, which will deal with the current and future trends at airports in this area. More specifically, I will talk about the efforts member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) are making to adapt their facilities to ensure strict compliance with ICAO standards and recommended methods, or to develop and update their operational procedures to improve airside area safety. I will also discuss specific examples and a successful case study, which is Lleida Alguaire Airport. In addition, I will also present some of the future trends in the area of airport operational safety, where new technologies will play an increasingly relevant role in making our airports safer.