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Disruption-Free Airport Maintenance

Airports play a critical role in enabling air travel so ensuring their smooth and safe operation is of utmost importance. By adopting innovative approaches to preventive maintenance activities, airports can mitigate operational challenges, meet evolving industry requirements while assuring maximum passenger comfort at the same time.

Maintaining airport infrastructure and systems is vital to ensure continuous operational excellence. During planned maintenance, disruptions must be kept to a minimum, simultaneously maximising safety, capacity, and overall efficiency. Additionally preventive maintenance keeps capital deployment under control and creates a positive public perception. We believe that the key factors essential to effective airport maintenance are proactive planning, implementing sustainable practices and collaborating closely with the client and professional team.

Our expertise in managing airport maintenance encompasses both existing and future areas of operations. We collaborate with our clients to understand their requirements, provide advice on maintenance strategies, as well as assess the financial implications involved in addressing different approaches of maintenance. Thorough lifecycle assessments inform our proposals and recommendations to support clients in their decision making.

The art of airport maintenance

Maintenance activities can be broadly categorised into two types:

  • corrective or reactive maintenance, addressing breakdowns when they occur
  • preventative or planned maintenance, to prolong asset lifespan, minimising unpredictable breakdowns and capital deployment

Unplanned maintenance almost certainly impacts the operating efficiency of airports as it disrupts normal operations, inconveniencing passengers, operators and staff.

Organised and well-funded airports tend to adopt a proactive approach that schedules maintenance tasks in advance. While smaller airports have less intensive flight schedules and thereby experience less operational disruption, they often face budget constraints and rely more on reactive or corrective measures.

Deerns specialises in designing for the entire lifecycle of infrastructure projects. Our designs aim to minimise potentials for disruption while we develop solutions that are future-ready and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Two distinct areas of operation that require maintenance are terminal facilities and the airfield and below are case studies on projects for clients

Building maintenance

In one of our terminal building projects, where the HVAC system is primarily focused on sustainable energy use, we needed to consider continuity of power supply for uninterrupted passenger processes. This was over above the usual consideration of ensure equipment maintenance without operational consequences. Consequently, we designed the systems providing the nominal load even if any unit is out of operation. This, together with a 100% centralised emergency power solution, ensures a robust installation for the terminal building.

Open runways

In an airport which relies heavily on cargo business, we devised a solution to repave the runway and several taxiways while minimising operational disruptions. We carefully assessed how to temporarily close the runway during specific time windows, ensuring minimal impact on revenue and thus preventing airlines from diverting their operations to other airports. Mitigating these risks required close collaboration with airport management and regulatory bodies, particularly those overseeing safety. The design was approved, and construction is expected to commence later this year.

Futureproof ground lighting

For one of our major international clients, we produced a report on futureproofing airfield ground lighting that covers both initial installation and future maintenance. We advised for clear demarcation in the installation so that if maintenance is required only the lights on one taxiway need to be switched off. In normal operations, both taxiways are used in separate directions but, during maintenance or a disruption, each taxiway can be used in two directions. For a greenfield solution this would be a simple solution. However, this is an existing taxiway system developed over a 50-year timespan, so implementation of the proposed solution becomes extremely complex.

Doubling down on decarbonisation

In an era of heightened awareness around climate change, emissions, and operational disruptions, airports are enhancing their product offerings to sustain their competitiveness. Through our design we are doubling down on decarbonisation, incorporating circularity principles. Instead of simply replacing products, we collaborate with the client in exploring solutions for partial replacements while retaining certain core components. For example, the shell of a system may be retained while easily-cleaned filters, recyclable parts and other elements that have reached their end of life can be replaced.

While carbon efficiency and cost reduction are driving factors, regulatory compliance and clients’ desire to project an energy-neutral image are also helping to advance maintenance practices. Factors such as “flight shaming”, post-pandemic staff shortages and rising fuel prices necessitate continuous improvement in airport design and maintenance practices.

Future airport maintenance trends

In our vision of future of airport maintenance, we see the following trends dominating the sector:

  • a focus on improved airport design and maintenance practices to address climate change concerns and operational disruptions
  • adoption of recent technologies aimed at reducing water and energy consumption
  • lifecycle assessment and a move towards circular practices

3 Key factors for airport maintenance

At Deerns we have identified three key factors which are crucial to efficient airport maintenance:

  • Proactive Planning: Effective maintenance should be incorporated into the airport design process from inception.
  • Close Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Integrated design and maintenance planning requires close collaboration between various professionals including engineers, architects, and facilities managers.
  • Sustainable Design: Striking a balance between overdesign and sustainability is a crucial aspect of airport maintenance. Overdesigning infrastructure with redundancy can enhance durability and minimise disruptions, but it also incurs additional costs and is less sustainable.

With a long-term approach to maintenance, together with a team of experts experienced in integrating complex systems, we are able to consistently support our clients in meeting their sustainability, operational, safety and cost goals.

Let’s talk

Martin Havenaar

Design Leader