Category Archives: Aviation

Does rejection of ‘Boris Island’ spell an ill wind for London?

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd

Controversy over the proposed location of a new runway serving London soared to new heights this week after the government’s Airports Commission rejected plans for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary to the east of UK capital.

The plans – dubbed ‘Boris Island’ are the brainchild of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who has reacted furiously to the decision that now leaves proposals for a new third runway at Heathrow as clear front-runner on the Commission’s short-list. A new second runway at London Gatwick is another, less favoured contender, as is an extension of an existing runway at Heathrow.

Airports Commission chair, Sir Howard Davies, says of the decision: “We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames Estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.

“While we recognise the need for a hub airport…there are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. The economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount. Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70 to £90 billion with much greater expenditure involved than in other options – probably some £30 to £60 billion in total.”

Copyright Foster + Partners How the thwarted Thames Estuary hub airport might have looked.

Copyright Foster + Partners
How the thwarted Thames Estuary hub airport might have looked.

Where the wind blows

In a column written for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Johnson rails against the fact that the way ahead now appears to be open for expansion of Heathrow after the country’s upcoming general elections in May 2015. (The UK government vowed not to bring in the Heathrow option during its current term of office.)

He warns: “Heathrow is already by far the noisiest airport in Europe, about a hundred times worse than Paris. A third runway will mean that there are more than a million people in the city affected by noise pollution of more than 55db – well over a third of all the victims of such aircraft noise in the whole of Europe.

“It will mean more of the medical problems associated with such pollution – stress, heart disease, etc; more struggling in school; vastly more road congestion and pollution in west London.”

Heathrow does indeed find itself in the unusual position of being a major airport situated to the west of a city, with the UK’s prevailing westerly winds blowing air pollution straight into the lungs of the capital. And its asthma and allergy suffers.

And Johnson is not the only one upset. Architects, Foster + Partners, worked alongside him to create the masterplan for the Thames Estuary proposals.

In a strong statement issued to the press, practice founder, Lord Foster, asserts: “I predict that Londoners will be scathing in their condemnation of today’s [this week’s] announcement, when confronted with the inevitability of the blighting influence of Heathrow – the risks, noise and environmental impact of overflying London – and its inability to cope with predicted growth.”

He describes adding a third runway at Heathrow as ‘merely a short term fix’ that will inevitably lead to a fourth runway in order to maintain international hub status.

He then draws a contentious conclusion: “The pattern of the most competitive emerging economies is to replace the old and obsolete and go boldly forward with the new, an opportunity today’s decision denies this country. The outcome of this process calls into question the validity of the Commission.”

Foster + Partners also claims that the Commission significantly overestimated the costs, and that independent estimates show that the new hub would cost ‘about £5 billion more when compared to expansion at Heathrow and would be faster to build’.

Hoping to befriend Boris…

However, not everyone is unhappy that Heathrow’s plans appear to be getting closer to take-off. The airport’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye, comments: “We have always agreed with the Mayor that Britain needs a successful hub airport to compete in the global race for jobs and growth. Heathrow is now the only hub left in the race. We would like to work with the Mayor to deliver Heathrow expansion in a way that benefits the whole country while reducing noise impacts for local people compared to today.”

Holland-Kaye wrote an open letter to Johnson echoing these sentiments, just prior to the Commission’s announcement on 2nd September. In the same letter, he also makes the case against Gatwick, stating: “Gatwick is different, it serves the short-haul and holiday market. We have nothing against Gatwick but you have rightly identified that its claim that it can deliver the same benefits as a hub airport is ‘a sham, a snare and a delusion’. I agree with you when you say a second runway at Gatwick would not make a bean of difference to the global connectivity we need.”

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd How Heathrow would look if a third runway is built.

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd
How Heathrow would look if a third runway is built.

However, in this fiercely polarised debate there are those who robustly back Gatwick. The point-to-point airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, argues: “We believe Gatwick has the strongest case. It is the only option left on the table that can be delivered with more certainty than either of the Heathrow options, and it can be delivered without the significant environmental impacts expansion at Heathrow would inflict on London. It can be delivered faster than any other option, and at low cost and low risk.

“Furthermore, expanding Gatwick will ensure the UK is served by two successful world-class airports. It can liberate hub capacity at Heathrow and open up the opportunities for affordable long haul travel to emerging markets for the benefit of everyone.”

An article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper seems to agree, venturing: “Let’s not assume (at least yet) that a giant stitch-up to favour Heathrow is the inevitable outcome. In a world of necessary compromises, Gatwick still looks the least bad option.

“The argument that the UK must have a single ‘hub’ airport – meaning Heathrow – to make flights to deepest China viable has always seemed wildly overstated. Heathrow struggles to explain why so many short-haul holiday flights, carrying few transit passengers, still crowd its terminals. If we must have a new runway, Gatwick, the only airport capable of providing Heathrow with stiffer competition, looks the best answer’.


Time for action

Whatever final choice the Airports Commission makes next year, the urgency is indisputable. A report, The Nub is the Hub, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), also issued in the run-up to 2nd September, cautions: “With the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets.

“The report highlights that by drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors with their own unconstrained capacity are creating connections to new destinations within the BRICS such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.”

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, concludes: “The [UK] Chancellor has set businesses ambitious targets for increasing the UK’s exports, and there is simply no way of achieving these goals without upping our game in emerging markets.”

By Gail Taylor

Hamad International Airport opens, Doha, Qatar

Hamad image

The HOK-designed Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar has started welcoming passengers from ten selected airlines yesterday (30 April 2014). All other airlines will continue to fly to and from the existing Doha International Airport until 27 May 2014, when Hamad International Airport will become fully operational.

In 2004, architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects and interior designers at global design studio HOK were brought in to devise a 600,000 sq m transport hub to replace the outdated Doha International Airport which was struggling to meet the demands of increased passenger numbers.

The new facility will be capable of handling 28 million passengers per annum when fully operational and virtually doubles the size of Doha International Airport. The hub includes two of the longest runways in the world, a 2,100 sq m public mosque, 28,000 sq m retail gallery, two 100-key hotels, a health spa, a 3,431-car parking garage, and numerous support and administration facilities.

Situated near the waterfront of the Arabian Gulf, Hamad International Airport with its sleek Passenger Terminal Complex will be the first impression many new visitors will get on their entry to Qatar.

HOK concludes: “[Our] design of the main passenger terminal emphasises Qatari hospitality and its Gulf-side location. The terminal gives visitors a spectacular and lasting impression of the country while providing them with a five-star travel experience.”

Siân Disson

Hamad Maps

Heathrow Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal opens to the public 4 June 2014

Heathrow Terminal 2

Terminal 2’s design work was begun by Foster + Partners, then developed into its final form by Luis Vidal (LVA) and HETCo (a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke). LVA and HETCo have given Terminal 2 its distinctive 54,000 square metre, wave-like roof. The waves reflect the three stages of the departing passenger journey – check-in, security and departures lounge. They dip as passengers complete one stage, then rise as they pass on to the next.

Environmental responsibility

Terminal 2 will be the world’s first airport terminal to be awarded BREEAM rating for its sustainable building design. The continued commitment to sustainable construction on Terminal 2 began before any of the new building had been erected with the demolition of its predecessor, as more than 90% of the demolished concrete was reused. Terminal 2 has been designed to be as energy efficient as possible: it incorporates an innovative and sophisticated system of active and passive measures to reduce the ecological footprint. The result is a reduction in CO2 emissions by 40%.

Flexibility and modularity

Terminal 2 has been designed with innovative and technological solutions based on modular systems in order to allow not only a faster construction but to facilitate future growth.


The main terminal building offers:
A satellite building – T2B (connected to T2A via an underground walkway)
A 1,340 space multi-storey car park
An energy centre
66 self-service kiosks
60 fast bag drops – which can also be configured for traditional use
56 traditional check-in desks
Check-in will be large enough to accommodate 3,000 passengers per hour
24 security lanes (17 for economy passengers, 4 Fast Track and 3 for staff and crew)
Approximately 600 Security Officers, 30 Passenger Service Ambassadors and 70 Service Team Leaders.
A new sculpture from British artist Richard Wilson RA, located in the covered court (measuring 70 metres, weighing 77 tonnes and suspended 18 metres in the air between two passenger walkways)

Building Heathrow’s next stage

Terminal 2 is Heathrow’s largest construction project. The terminal, a new pier, and a new car park and roads will cost around £2.5 billion.

HETCo (a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke) won the Terminal 2A contract in a competitive tender in 2008. Their work covers the demolition of the old Terminal 2 and Queen’s Building, and the construction of the new terminal building including the aircraft stands and cooling station.

The satellite pier is being built by Balfour Beatty. This part of the project includes a network of underground tunnels that will transfer passengers by travelator (and eventually rail) between the satellite pier and the main terminal building.


Laing O’Rourke won the contract for Terminal 2’s multi-storey car park. They are also working on the central courtyard that links the car park with the terminal, the plaza and the approach roads to the car park.

The baggage system contractors include Mace and Siemens and the instrumentation and control systems are being designed and installed by Fujitsu, Tyco, Firstco, BT and Mott MacDonald.


Credits to Balfour Beatty and Luis Vidal Architects.

€600m Pulkovo International Airport opens in St. Petersburg


A new terminal at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia designed by Ramboll, Pascall + Watson and Grimshaw has opened to the public. The terminal building is the first of a two-phase project costing €1bn which will see the dated airport facility expanded and modernised to meet the operator’s long-term goal of achieving a capacity of 22 million passengers per annum.

This is the first project in Russia for international firm Grimshaw who won the scheme in an international competition in 2007 and were retained as concept guardians. Pascal + Watson acted as executive architects and Ramboll were appointed as lead design consultants.

Grimshaw Project Partner Mark Middleton said: “This building represents a point of departure for Grimshaw. We are known for our expressive structures and attention to detail. We wanted to keep all of those elements – the practicality and the buildability, and our interest in sustainability – but also try to make this building more about form and space.

“This development is a quantum leap, easily holding its own among the world’s top airports. I think the future for St Petersburg is bright; Pulkovo will become a large hub, drawing business from Asia and Eastern Europe.”

The design of the new terminal takes reference from its site 20km from downtown St. Petersburg. The interior spaces have been arranged as a series of interconnected zones that echo the city’s layout of islands and bridges with generous open spaces that reference the grandeur of St. Petersburg. The roof system has also been developed in response to the extremes of climate in the city, with structural ‘trees’ positioned to support the weight of winter snow.

In the future, airside infrastructure and operational support facilities will undergo a major overhaul and landside property development includes construction of a new four-star hotel, a business centre and extensive parking facilities. Funding for the venture was sourced through a €1bn public-private partnership which is the first of its kind in Russia.

Pulkovo 2

Copenhagen Airport plans major expansion


Copenhagen Airport is currently the busiest airport in Scandinavia, serving over 24 million passengers last year. And now the owners are looking to expand.

In a plan that looks roughly 25 years into the future, CPH which which manages both of  Copenhagen’s Airports hopes to nearly double capacity from 24 to 40 million passengers to attract greater numbers of tourists and to attract new business and investment.

Unlike other European airports, CPH is not planning a new terminal but instead favouring a phased plan to expand the existing one. According to Copenhagen Airport CEO Thomas Woldbye, “…building new, separate terminals is not an optimal solution. A phased expansion offers several advantages. Eighteen months of analysis work has shown us that, with this approach, we can avoid building excess capacity, secondly, it allows us to keep the airport’s compact layout ‘under one roof’, which is important and thirdly, a phased expansion allows us to adjust our process to match the increase in traffic and lets us make use of the latest technology,”

Along with expansion of the terminal, the plans also incorporate bigger commercial space comprising a new hotel with conference facilities, bigger retail space and better high speed connections to Oslo and Hamburg. A new station will reflect the importance of quick connectivity to grow passenger numbers and the potential for the airport to continue its place as a key transport hub for Northern Europe. Currently there are rail links from Terminal 3 to Copenhagen’s Nørreport Station and regional Oresundtrain services to Copenhagen Central Station.

All this ambition also means job creation. According to international surveys, the additional 16 million passengers will generate an additional 16,000 jobs at the airport, bringing the total number of jobs in the airport area to more than 40,000. There will be more work to do for a number of support functions as well, corresponding to about 8,000 jobs outside the airport area bringing the total to 24,000.

This growth in employment and tourism can only occur with better business investment and collaboration between municipalities, organisations and businesses from both Denmark & Sweden as well as beyond. As Thomas Woldbye elaborates, “We have presented a vision for the expansion of Copenhagen Airport, and we can and must build the capacity required to handle 40 million passengers a year. But our plan can only be realised if all the relevant parties in the region collaborate. We saw it in Barcelona: since hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, the city has turned into a tourist destination at the top of the European league, and we are currently seeing how the whole region around Istanbul is booming because the airport and airlines are collaborating with the entire region to generate economic growth. If everyone pulls together, we can also lay the foundation for 40 million travellers in this region over the next two to three decades.”

Jim Davis

Balfour Beatty JV awarded £58.4m Abu Dhabi airport contract


Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, announced today (Tuesday 11 February) that Power Transmission Gulf (PTG) part of Balfour Beatty’s U.A.E. based joint venture BK Gulf LLC has been awarded a £58.4 million joint venture contract to carry out Mechanical Engineering services on the new Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal Building (MTB).

Power Transmission Gulf (PTG) is the Major Partner (40%) for the Mechanical Engineering contract, in joint venture with China State and Emirates Falcon Electromechanical Company (EFECO). Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) is the owner and the construction is being carried out by a Joint Venture of TAV Construction, CCC and Arabtec (TCA JV in equal partnership).

“I am pleased to announce this new contract with TCA JV,” said Andrew McNaughton, Balfour Beatty CEO. “This builds on our existing capabilities in airport infrastructure gathered from around the world and allows us to bring these skills to a key growth region for us.”

The new terminal building will accommodate up to 65 aircraft, including the Airbus A‐380, with an expected capacity of 30 million passengers per year. Check‐in will provide 165 conventional counters and 48 self-service kiosks capable of handling 8,500 passengers, both arriving and departing per hour. The baggage system is designed to process over 19,000 bags per hour with over 22 km of conveying lines and 10 reclaim carousels.

The MTB is designed  to  achieve a Three Pearl rating, based on the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s Estidama approach towards sustainable design, making it the highest‐rated airport terminal in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the largest singular building ever to be rated globally.

The project is due for completion by September 2016.

Aéroports de Paris welcomes the revival of CDG Express project by the Minister of Transport

Frédéric Cuvillier, French Minister for Transport and the Maritime Economy, said in the
presence of Augustin de Romanet, Chairman and CEO of Aéroports of Paris, during his
visit at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, that the CDG Express project had been revived
through the creation of a research company that will bring together the French state, RFF
(owner and manager of the French railway infrastructure network) and Aéroports de Paris.

The CDG Express project involves the construction of a dedicated non-stop rail link
between the centre of Paris and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, which should strengthen
the attractiveness of the airport and, thus, France.

The research firm will aim at ensuring the feasibility and the technical, legal and financial
viability of the CDG Express link.

Augustin de Romanet, Chairman and CEO of Aéroports de Paris said:
“I welcome the commitment of the government and the personal commitment of Frédéric
Cuvillier which will today allow the CDG Express project to enter a new study phase, giving
this non-stop link every chance of seeing the light of day. This is a priority project in terms
of quality of service for passengers and competitiveness for Paris-Charles de Gaulle

That is why as soon as I took up my duties at the head of Aéroports de Paris, I ensured
Aéroports de Paris’ commitment to the success of this project.”

“Planecopter” plan to boost disaster infrastructure


Recent catastrophes, such as the devastating typhoon Haiyan, have made apparent the need for advances in critical disaster relief infrastructure. To address the problem of accessibility during natural disasters, a multinational group of designers and researchers have teamed up to develop a new aircraft that could bring aid to stricken areas in all manner of conditions.

The Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On Any Surface (ESTOLAS) scheme proposes an aircraft design incorporating aeroplane, helicopter, hovercraft and blimp characteristics. Built with large amounts of composite materials, this extremely light quick disaster response craft could make use of unprecedentedly short runways. Additionally, ESTOLAS’s featherweight body can be filled with helium, opening up yet further avenues manoeuvrability.

estolas 1

ESTOLAS even includes skis and an inflatable skirt reminiscent of a hovercraft, which will allow the craft to traverse practically any surface. Alexander Gamaleyev, the project’s head coordinator, states that the largest model of the craft could carry a potential 440-ton cargo to disaster-hit areas, and be able to come to rest in an area of just 175 metres of open space.

Prototypes show two fan blade engines providing the craft’s chief propulsion, but with no mention of the power units to drive these engines. ESTOLAS has however recently moved out of the concept phase and is currently being tested for airworthiness in wind tunnels and other simulations.

After this testing, a remotely controlled model of the craft will be put through a series of test flights. ESTOLAS has floated April 2014 as a date for the involvement of industrial and venture capital partners to take the project to the next stage.

Below you can find a brief video illustrating the craft’s design in 3d.

Richard Greenan

Atkins awarded civil engineering contract for US’ Orlando International Airport expansion plan

As Orlando International Airport prepares to move forward with its $1.1 billion expansion program, Atkins has been selected to provide civil engineering design services for the Automated People Mover (APM) complex that will be developed to the south of the main airport terminal.

Orlando International Airport is the 13th busiest airport in the nation, originally designed to accommodate 24 million passengers annually, but currently handles more than 35 million including 1.8 million international arrivals. The work on the south airport APM complex is one of the first steps in upgrading the airport’s capacity to handle an expected 40 million passengers by 2016.

Joe Boyer, Atkins’ CEO, North America, said: “This is a project of great magnitude for one of the largest and busiest airports in Florida. Our aviation business has a qualified team of professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to successfully handle the demands of this project.”

According to Craig Sucich, Atkins’ group manager, “This contract presents many demanding opportunities including a construction-management-at-risk delivery method, fast-track construction, sustainable design, construction safety, and phasing planning. Our team is up to the challenge since we have successfully completed similar projects at major airports throughout the country.”

Atkins is the primary provider of all civil engineering work on the project and will support the primary architecture design team in designing all elements of the APM complex. Site elements will be designed to be incorporated into a proposed new south terminal, the development of which has not yet been determined.  The current plan is to design the APM in such a way as to eliminate or minimise potential future integration or upgrade-related costs and impacts to airport operations.


Development of the south airport APM complex will relieve passenger capacity constraints in the main (north) terminal complex and serve as a connection from the main terminal to a 2,400 space parking garage structure being built as part of the APM complex. Atkins will be responsible for designing new roadways, bridges, utilities, and grading and drainage.

Atkins has worked at 36 of the top 50 airports in the United States and has done so for more than 50 years. In the last five years Atkins has managed more than $1 billion of runway-related construction projects.

Mumbai’s International Airport unveils its sumptuous new terminal


Mumbai has been making world headlines following the recent inauguration of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s new Terminal 2 by India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The impressive new $2bn facility’s first international flight is scheduled for 12 February 2014, with domestic operations expected to commence next year. Once fully operational, Terminal 2 will handle up to 40 million passengers a year.

Owner-operator, GVK Power and Infrastructure’s Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) hopes the opulently designed Terminal 2 will rival other international terminals of note, including Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The new facility accommodates 50,000 sqm of check-in halls, 188 check-in counters and 52 boarding gates with 10,900 seats.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was lead architect, structural engineer and MEP engineer on the project, with construction services provided by local contractor, Larson and Toubro. SOM’s greatest challenge has been that of restricted ground space, as Mumbai’s infamous slums tightly surround the site. The answer was to build vertically in an ‘X’ formation, with the resulting 410,000 sqm building being set over four levels and combining international and domestic functions.

One of Terminal 2’s most innovative design features is that of the long-span roof, which covers a total of 70,000 sqm – one of the largest roofs in the world without an expansion joint. Just 30 internal columns – whose design was inspired by India’s national bird, the peacock – support the roof. Another defining feature is the cable wall exterior cladding system. At over 1 km in length and 11,000 sqm in area, it is now the longest and largest of its type in the world.

Great importance has been accorded to Terminal 2’s striking aesthetics. The hall is lit by 1,000 lotus-shaped imported chandeliers (the lotus being India’s national flower), with 30,000 sqm of skylight – enough to cover Wimbledon’s Centre Court six times over – providing plenty of natural light as well. A green-roof area features lush landscaping, with some 80 different plant species. Inside, nearly 7,000 cultural artefacts are displayed along 7,432 sqm of art walls.

Gail Taylor