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Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

Griffith Aviation & Griffith University School of Natural Sciences



What is an Airport Master Plan? ICAO (1987) defines the airport master plan as a document
that presents the planners conception of the ultimate development of a specific airport (p.
1-2). This definition, although an oversimplification of what is often the culmination of
multiple highly complex and in-depth studies, is widely accepted internationally and
supported by the majority of ICAOs Member States.
De Neufville and Odoni (2011) offer additional insight into what an airport master plan is
intended to be. They point out that the focus of an airport master plan has historically been on
the architectural/engineering development of a single airport and through this focus a master
plan typically presents the ultimate vision for the airport.
However, the contemporary airport master plan is more than just a description and illustration
of the ultimate construction of an airports facilities; it is a road map to fulfilling those
objectives, with consideration for detours that may occur along the way. It may also be aimed
at fulfilling the requirements of a national or regional airport plan.
Airport master planning is still occurring in much the same manner as it did in the 1980s,
however many airports are choosing to implement a more dynamic strategic approach which
builds flexibility into the way an airport is developed and operated over time.
Prior to deregulation airport master planning was a very linear exercise. However todays
airports are more commercialised, more privatised and more integrated into other
transportation systems than airports were during the regulated era. As such the airport master
plan considers far more than it has in the past. Influences come from all directions and the
master planning process has evolved to stay relevant.
In the preceding learning modules we have focused mainly on the state of the industry and
how forecasts are developed to identify facility requirements. In this module we will tie what
we have learned thus far into what you will come to know as the Airport Master Planning
Process. We will examine how an Airport Master Plan is developed and identify where recent
improvements have been made to allow for a more dynamic and strategic approach to be
taken. In addition we will explore how an airport may be tied to its community and discuss
some of the contemporary issues that often become the subject of heated public debate and
extensive study.
Required Readings

De Neufville & Odoni, Airport Systems Planning, Design and Management - Part 2,
Ch. 4 Pages 79-83 and Ch. 6 Pages 135-176.

ICAO Airport Planning Manual - Part 1, Ch 2, Pages 1-7 to 1-12.

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview



You have likely heard the saying; the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. The same
is true of an airport master plan. An airport master plan is only as good as what first goes into
it. The master planning process is the guide upon which we develop the airport master plan.
The traditional process, as supported by ICAO, the FAA and other supra-national regulators,
includes the following key elements:

Figure 1. The Traditional Airport Master Planning Process

In Australia, all leased federal airports (except for Tennant Creek and Mount Isa) are subject
to a planning framework in the Airports Act 1996 (the Airports Act) (Department of
Infrastructure and Regional Development, 2014). The following is an excerpt from the
Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website for
Airport Planning and Regulation that identifies the requirement for airport master plans in
As part of the planning framework, airports are required to prepare a Master Plan that
incorporates an Environment Strategy. The Master Plan is a 20 year strategic vision
for the airport site which is renewed every five years. The Master Plan includes future
land uses, types of permitted development, and noise and environmental impacts. The
Environment Strategy sets out the airport's strategy to manage environmental issues
within a 5 year period and beyond. It is the basis on which the Commonwealth
measures the environmental performance of airports and the document by which
airport tenants will determine their environmental responsibilities.
In developing their Master Plans airports must publish a Preliminary Draft Master
Plan and invite public comment. A copy of the Airport Development Consultation
Guidelines [PDF: 378 KB] is available for download.

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

Following the public consultation, the airport must then submit a Draft Master Plan to
the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, for a decision. The
Minister must either approve or refuse to approve the Draft Master Plan. If the
Minister neither approves nor refuses to approve the Draft Master Plan within 50
business days from receiving all the necessary documents and information, the
Minister is taken to have approved the Draft Master Plan.
In addition, all leased federal airports (except for Tennant Creek and Mount Isa
Airports) are required to develop a Major Development Plan for major airport
developments on the airport site. A draft version of the Major Development Plan must
undergo public consultation before being submitted to the Minister for Infrastructure
and Regional Development for a decision.
(Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, 2014)
Requirements similar to the foregoing can be found in various countries. In the US, for
example, it is typical for airports to update their master plans every 5-7 years. It is also a
requirement that the Master Plan be updated whenever there is change in major planned
development or when there is a change in air traffic volume or mix that is deemed significant
to the airport. Updates to airport master plans or portions thereof are also often triggered by
funding programs or opportunities that were not previously identified.
In that regard the master plan is often viewed as reactive process, and therefore, as de
Neufville and Odoni (2013) point out, the traditional master plan is fundamentally flawed as
it relies too heavily on one forecast or one recommended scenario for development making it
inflexible and often out of date the moment it is published.
The contemporary process being adopted by airports provides a much more dynamic plan,
more attune to a development and management strategy. IATAs Airport Master Planning
Process, reproduced in Figure 2 below, captures the complexity in greater detail and
identifies the importance of a development strategy that considers the financial risks

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

Figure 2. IATA Airport Master Planning Process (IATA, 2014)

The dynamic aspect enters into the equation when evaluating development options. Because
there are so many paths forward, the selection of the most obvious or preferred development
option may not be the best solution long-term for the airport.
Ensuring that a dynamic approach is taken requires the traditional master planning procedure
be modified. De Neufville and Odoni (2013) suggest that the following steps be taken:
1. Inventorying of existing conditions (pre-planning).
2. Forecasting a range of future traffic, along with possible scenarios for its major
components (international, domestic, and transfer traffic, airline routes, etc.).
3. Determining facility requirements suitable for the several possible levels and types of
4. Developing several alternatives for comparative analysis.
5. Selecting the preferred first-phase development, the one that enables subsequent and
appropriate responses to the possible future conditions.
(p. 101)

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

From an operational perspective, undertaking dynamic strategic planning as part of the

master planning process requires that the team involved consider multiple scenarios and
evaluate options from multiple perspectives. Every airport is largely unique in its operational
requirements, development strategy, and management; therefore the need for an airport
master plan may first be approach any number of perspectives and with different objectives in
mind. The master planning process identified within this module is only a guide and subject
to changes in order to cater more specifically to the needs of a specific master planning
For a summary of dynamic strategic planning, refer to Airport Systems page 102.



Airports, more often than not, are constructed to serve local communities and as such their
ties to those communities are extremely important. The changes that occur within an airports
catchment area, its local community and the broader community it serves effects how an
airport develops. Conversely, how an airport develops also effects how a community
develops. Therefore, it is important to understanding what influences an airport may have on
a community and vise versa.
Physical Ties
Airports are tied to the communities they serve by both physical and socio-economic means.
Physically an airport is connected to its community through a ground transportation network.
Ensuring good ground access to and from an airport is just as important as providing suitable
facilities at an airport. In this regard, many airports today are taking on a multimodal
transportation hub role in their local community to ensure that efficient connections to ground
transportation are provided. We will be exploring this topic in greater detail in Module 5, but
for now it is important to understand that cooperation between a community and an airport is
essential to ensure an efficient transportation network is provided where one fails so does
the other.
Socio-Economic Impact
Airports provide a gateway to the world, facilitate trade and tourism. They are the first and
last point of contact for travelers going to and from a city and as such are the face of the
community. It therefore stands to reason that an airport is much more than a simple
infrastructure provider to the local community. They are the door through which economic
growth can be achieved in an ever more globalised society.
Economic impact studies are often prepared as part of the airport master planning process to
gauge what impact an airport or its development may have on a community and vice versa.
These studies are usually aimed at informing debate that may be occurring around the subject
of strategic economic investment. Stakeholders, particularly publicly appointed ones, want to
know what they are getting in return for their investment in airport infrastructure.
Consequently an economic impact study is usually focused on identifying the cost-benefit to
the community for capital investment in new airport facilities or off-site supporting

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

During the development of an airport master plan, the economic impact study may evaluate
several airport development or expansion options to quantify the impact each may have on
the community. Through this process, impact studies may be used to obtain financial support
or identify where an economic trade-off should be considered. They may also be used for
planning purposes to assess whether sufficient land is available for new commercial projects
in the vicinity of the airport, or whether there is a sufficient supply of labour and associated
housing to support such developments (Graham, 2014, p. 263). Economic impact studies
may also form part of an air service business case and for lobbying purposes to gain
regulatory approval, for example for more direct services (Graham, 2014, p. 263). And as
Graham (2014) suggests, such studies can serve an important public relations role in
educating policy-makers, airport users and the general public as to the economic value of
airports (p. 263).
According Hoyle, Tanner & Associates and RKG Associates (2008) as cited by Graham
(2014) popular reasons for economic impact studies include:

to measure significance of the airport to the local economy;

to justify airport investment/expansion;

to measure significance of the airport to specific industries;

to formulate economic development/planning initiatives;

to supplement the airport system plan; and

to obtain financial support.

When we start to examine the economic effects of either an airport development, new facility,
service or expansion they can be classified as either direct, indirect, or induced impacts.
The following except, from Graham (2014), is provided here to summarize what is meant by
the terms direct, indirect and induced impacts.
The direct or primary impact is the employment and income generated by the direct
operation of the airport. This is the most obvious economic impact and the most easily
measured. This impact is associated with the activities of the airport operator itself,
the airlines, the concessionaires providing commercial facilities, the handling agents
and other agencies that provide services such as air traffic control, customs and
immigration and security. Some of these activities, including car parking, care hire,
in-flight catering, freight forwarders and hotels, may be located off-site in the
surrounding area of the airport.
However, the economic impact of an airport is not limited just to these direct, airportrelated effects, although this is the impact that is most frequently quantified and
studied. The role of the suppliers to the airport industry also needs to be considered.
This requires an examination of the indirect impact, which is defined as the
employment and income generated in the chain of suppliers of goods and services to
the direct activities located both at and in the vicinity of the airport. These types of
activities include the utilities and fuel suppliers, construction and cleaning companies,
and food and retail goods suppliers. In addition, the impact that these direct and
indirect activities have on personal spending also needs to be taken into account. This
so-called induced impact can be defined as the employment and income generated by

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

the spending of incomes by the direct and indirect employees on local goods and
services including retail, food, transport and housing. The indirect and induced effects
are together often known as the secondary effects.
(p. 329)

Figure 3. The Economic Impact of Airports (Graham, 2014, p. 330)

The impact an airport can have on its local economy should not be underestimated or
overlooked during the master planning process. Airports can be home to any number of
businesses including educational institutions, recreational and warehousing facilities,
manufactures, aircraft maintenance and overhaul (MRO) service providers as well as others
that may have a need to be located on or in close proximity to the airport. There are usually
opportunities to strengthen an airports role in the community by identifying where ties have
traditionally existed or where new ones may be brokered. It is important that airport planners
as well as management look for ways to capitalise on the unique opportunities that may exist
for the airport.

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview



Todays airports are faced with a number of concerns, some of which have been contentious
issues since the early days of aviation, while others have not until recently risen to the
forefront. The contemporary concerns that we will be focusing on for the last part of this
module belong to one of two broad categories; environmental impacts or sustainability.
Environmental Impacts

Noise top topic at next airport meeting

Naples Daily News (2015, Jan 6)

Buy more land to combat threat from airport to Blue Mountains heritage: expert

The Sydney Morning Herald (2015, Jan 4)

Jet proposal for island airport draws hostile crowd at environmental assessment meeting

The Toronto Star (2015, Jan 6)

The above are just a few of the headlines from recent months that identify some of the types
of environmental issues that airports around the world are faced with everyday. From these it
should be obvious that airports do not live in isolation and as such are subject to the same
increasing pressures to protect the environment as any other. However, the level of concern
expressed locally can vary significantly from country to country and airport to airport.
Graham (2013) suggests that in many countries increased prosperity has led to greater
expectation for the quality of life and more sensitivity to the environmental impacts of
airport (p. 286). Experiences from Australia, Europe and North America suggest that this
statement holds true. Graham goes on to suggest that this is also the reason it has become
progressively difficult to substantially expand airport operations or to build new airports (p.
286). Nowhere is this more apparent than at a scheduled air carrier airport located within the
confines of a sprawling urban centre.
De Neufville and Odoni (2013) provide additional insight into several of the key
environmental issues. Those discussed include:

Noise (both air and ground noise);

Air Quality;

Climate Change;

Water Quality; and


We can also add chemical and biological waste, energy management, heritage and landscape
impacts to this list.

7581NSC Module 3: The Airport Master Plan An Overview

Although each of these topics are discussed during the lecture, I encourage all students to
read widely on these issues as they will inevitably be raised or questioned at some point in
almost any aviation related career.
Alongside these environmental issues is an issue that has slowly risen to the top of the agenda
at many airports and industry regulators. It is the issue of sustainability. The simplest
definition that I have heard used to describe sustainability was recently given at engineering
conference in Florida, where it was suggested by one speaker that sustainability is nothing
more than ensuring that we dont screw things up for our future generations. With that
definition in mind, you can see that the issue of sustainability can go hand-in-hand with many
of the environmental issues previously indentified. However, sustainability considers
significantly more than just the environment. It examines the impact of development on the
well being of future generations, the sustained use and continued development of our
transportation systems and the ability of those systems to keep up with demand while not
posing a threat to our ways of life.
While de Neufville and Odoni (2014) do not directly discuss sustainability in their text, they
do address the issue through identification of new technologies, methods for improving
operator efficiency, and the development of multi-airport cities to cope with increases in
demand. It is with these three subtopics that we conclude this module and move onto the
Airside Planning and Design.

De Neufville, R., & Odoni, A. R. (2013). Airport systems: Planning, design and
management (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. (2014, June 11). Airport Planning
and Regulation. Retrieved from
International Air Transport Association. (2014). Airport Development Reference Manual
(10th Ed.). Montreal, QC: Author
International Civil Aviation Organization. (1987). Airport planning manual: Part 1 master
planning (2nd Ed.). (Doc 9184-AN/902). Montreal, QC: Author
Graham, A. (2014). Managing airports: An international perspective (4th ed.). New York,
NY: Routledge