Sample Literature Case Studies Paper on Parallel Runway Construction in Airports: A Literature Review


Airport construction, like any other infrastructure network construction works, requires a consideration of key factors of economic viability and sustainability. The growth of the aviation industry constantly calls for additional resources in airports, such as the expansion of available runways or construction of new complementary runways to the ones that are already in existence. Each construction activity, particularly when it is meant to expand the operations of an airport, impacts various airport stakeholders in one way or the other. Many past literatures have examined the impacts of such infrastructure expansion projects on the stakeholders, including the surrounding communities.

Need for Airport Runway Expansion

In the recent years, there has been a tremendous growth in the use of air travel. The growth has resulted in many concerns regarding the need for bigger runways that can accommodate multiple planes at once. May & Hill (2006) asserted that the growing need for airport runway expansion has resulted in increasing concern over resource availability and the ecological grounds for infrastructural constructions. Within local communities in which there is need to construct airport runways, there are increasing fears of terrorism, poor quality of life among the neighboring communities as a result of pollution and noise, and increased fears of war and/ or civil unrest. Each of these attributes contributes to one aspect of airport expansion or the other. According to various past studies, the concerns around new airport constructions and expansions are the major reason for conducting public inquiries prior to implementation of construction plans. Dhakal et al. (2012) for instance, evaluated the role of the community in the airport expansion works, and came up with a model for implementing stakeholder engagement to foster support and efficiency in planning.

Other studies also show that various airports in the past including Heathrow and Brisbane, have undergone extensive changes to align with the changing aviation industry outlook (Sokolova, 2013; Kivits, 2013).  In any expansion project, the project management has to take into consideration a stakeholder outlook to the process of implementing the planned growth. Sokolova (2016) points out the need for reviewing the stakeholder outlooks as a strategy for achieving the triple objective of airport expansion projects which entail to attain sustainability, accomplishing economic growth and fostering ecological balance. Kivits (2013) also posits that stakeholder involvement is essential for successful project implementation since every infrastructural expansion project occurs within a stipulated community. The responses of the community determine the direction of any given project and its capacity to progress to completion without qualms. The findings provided by different studies on stakeholder engagement and asset management in the construction industry as well as in aviation prove the need for constant reference to existing processes in engineering, as a strategy for success.

Airport Infrastructure Expansion Goals

The expansion of infrastructure networks in airports is the subject of many studies in aviation. Stanley (2017) for instance, averred that the primary goal of any airport expansion project is to attain sustainability. In the perspective of this author, sustainability helps airport organizers and engineers to benchmark with other airports and also acts as an indicator for moving forward with various normative objectives that are ascribed to airport expansion. This implies that with sustainability as a goal in airport expansion, an airport can be compared to others within a higher rating based on the capacity it is capable of serving within a stipulated time period (Peng, Wei & Jun- Qing, 2013). Increasing expansion of airports however results in increased vulnerability to catastrophic failure triggered by seemingly insignificant and small disturbances (Airport Metropolis Project, 2012). 

In a project such as that described by the Airport Metropolis Project (2012), the magnitude of the airport after expansion and the additional resources requires greater input in terms of security and material resources. This goes hand in hand with the argument given by Dhakal et al. (2012) that increased air traffic, which is a driver for airport expansion, is also a risk factor for terrorism, civil unrest and war. Creating a balance between the vulnerabilities created by expansion and the capacity to serve the interests of many stakeholders therefore remains a subject that still requires exploration. To ensure that this balance is attained, the Airport Metropolis Project (2012) recommends four sustainability best practice principles for application in any airport expansion project. These four include: economic efficiency, coordination, the environment and the community. The interplay between these factors is highly intricate and one cannot fully implement any of them without the other.

Another objective which most airport expansion projects pursue is that of economic growth. The expansion of any infrastructure network, from the opinion shared by Sokolova (2016), calls for the examination of different values and concerns raised by the major stakeholders in the project. Airport expansion projects give insight into the economic and the environmental challenges that the industry faces (Kivits, 2013). During the public inquiry process for the construction of the Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 (T5), the London Chamber of Commerce, as an advocate for the project, used the economic goal of airport expansion as a strategy for imploring public support. According to the chamber, overseas visitors would spend up to 10 million fewer nights in Britain without the airport expansion. This would result in up to 1 billion GBP loss to the hotel industry and another loss of up to GBP 500 million to the general tourism industry. In this way, the chamber allured to the economic goals of the expansion process, which is the underlying objective of each infrastructural expansion. Similarly, May & Hill (2006) reported that every airport expansion results in a conflict between the economic goals of the airport and the nations, and the community needs. The need for this balance could also be stated through the third goal of expansion, which is to attain ecological balance.

In a study based on a public inquiry for airport expansion, Isa, Hamid & Tan (2016) explored the extent to which airport authorities strive to maintain ecological balance during expansions. The Airport Metropolis Project (2012) also opined that an effective infrastructure network delivery is one that entails a detailed understanding of land use planning and patterns within the targeted metropolitan region. This argument shows that in addition to economic and sustainability objectives, an effective system must also look into strategies for maintaining effective resource utilization in any targeted area. May & Hill (2006) also reported that resource utilization is one of the key concerns during airport infrastructure expansion. These scholars show that airport authorities have to align their project plans with the overall objectives of land use planning, which include planning for the future of tourism and infrastructure needs. The Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty (2007) in their report about the parallel runway construction also mentioned their need for the additional runway and the potential impacts of not investing in that runway. From the arguments made by the corporation, failure to construct the new runway would result in increased delays, disruptions to business and tourism and disruptions to the public as a whole. The combination of these factors constitutes a balance between the economic and ecological objectives of airport infrastructure expansion.

Issues in Runway Expansion

Despite the clarity of airport infrastructure expansion goals, a variety of issues are still quintessential in airport runway expansion and/ or addition projects. Various studies and reports have shown the universality of key concerns in airport runway expansions. For instance, studies by OECD (2015), Stanley (2017), and Isa et al. (2016) outline some of the key challenges in airport runway expansion. According to Kivits (2013), airport expansion poses a challenge in the combination of environmental and economic challenges within the context of air traffic growth. May & Hill (2006) also asserted that many concerns around ecological grounds and the quality of life of local communities have resulted from the expansion of airport runways. As an explanation of these concerns, May & Hill clarified the challenges in airport expansion into various aspects namely: institutional paralysis; land use planning challenges; the government, market and community; economic development vis- a- vis the community goals, aircraft noise; and stakeholder variety.

Institutional paralysis in the perspective of May & Hill (2006) is such that the government and airport authorities have insufficient capacity to address the policy issues surrounding the development of various airport infrastructures. As much as governments may have the capacity to finance airport development projects, they do not understand the entire range of challenges and positions surrounding the runway expansion decision (Zakrzewski, 2009). This is somewhat tied to the challenge of the government, market and the community. According to May & Hill, the three vertices of airport expansion, each has a stipulated role to play, which may or may not be connected to the other aspects of growth. While the government provides the resources for expansion, the market provides the driving force behind the need for expansion while the community provides the opposing force for the expansion. The capacity of the management to balance between the three can make a difference between effective performance and lack thereof. The arguments provided by May & Hill (2006) regarding the conflict between the need for economic growth and the community concerns was also echoed by Dhakal et al. (2012). In their own report, Dhakal et al. provided an integrated framework for strategic asset management (ISAM framework). The framework was aimed at helping airport planners in coming up with an understanding of the impacts of noise pollution on the local communities, and thus to a certain extent reducing the conflict between the communities and the economic essence of airport expansion.

According to Dhakal et al. (2012) many airport expansion projects are conducted without a proper understanding of factors that contribute to noise pollution within airport neighborhoods. The authors went ahead to state that this is one of the many factors that result in the challenges that aviation faces in maintaining strong relationships with the stakeholder communities. Through the adoption of the ISAM framework, airport authorities would be more effective. GAO (2003) also mentioned some challenges faced in constructing an airport runway. According to GAO, the intensity of the challenges met varies based on the distance of the airport to a major metropolitan area and the degree of opposition meted by the local communities. This goes hand in hand with the factors mentioned by May & Hill (2006). As examples of the challenges faced in runway construction, GAO (2003) cited reaching an agreement with the stakeholders on the need for and purpose of the runway expansion, agreements on noise mitigation procedures and other issues as well as the design and construction process for the new/ expanded runway. GAO further posits that in the past, airport authorities have taken actions such as taking the stakeholders into the project early on and working together towards a solution for noise and pollution issues.

PPS Group (2014) also explored the range of challenges met in the expansion of the Gatwick airport runway. To effectively address the challenges, PPS Group describes them through their impacts on the runway expansion. Such issues include noise, water management, flood risks, air quality/ carbon increase, biodiversity, and the quality of life of local communities. Each of these factors has a stipulated effect on the runway construction and the decisions made by the project team aim at addressing the community concerns as well as the economic and ecological obligations of airport authorities.

Stakeholder Engagement

One of the major concerns mentioned by May & Hill (2006) as challenges to the effective implementation of an airport expansion plan is the issue of stakeholders. May & Hill posited that the aviation industry has many stakeholders including politicians, government and non- governmental corporations, airlines, passengers and the media. Each of these groups of stakeholders has its own interests and pursues those interests in every interaction with the airport authorities. It is for this reason that Sokolova (2016) posited that stakeholder engagement is an essential part of airport expansion requirements as it also functions as a key part of corporate social responsibility, which helps airports to accomplish the triple bottom line in airport expansion. Perfect stakeholder engagement should bring about sustainable positive results for the airport improvement plans (Wahab & Dulaimi, n.d). Airports are an important part of the economy, where the economic growth prospects meet environmental pressure. The need for airports to expand and meet the global economic goals can be hindered by stakeholders if not taken seriously.

Understanding the stakeholder thinking is necessary for the operational potential of a company to be understood. This is why stakeholders in various organizations cooperate with those organizations to make operations possible. A stakeholder in this regard is anyone with particular forms of capital at risk. The capital could be either human or financial in nature (Sokolova, 2016). The importance of stakeholders to any given project can be demonstrated by the public inquiry conducted by the Heathrow Airport management during the airport T5 construction project. 700 participants were involved in the inquiry, with an expenditure of approximately 80 million GBP and a report totaling to 100,000 pages (OECD, 2015). Similarly, Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty (2007) also laid down a strategic public engagement plan for the parallel runway construction, in which the airport authorities used multiple platforms including print media, community centers and randomly sampled public participants to be part of the surveys.

Both projects had similar findings in terms of the public concerns. OECD (2015) reported concerns about noise and pollution. Through these concerns, the airport authorities developed a compensation plan as well as noise and property consultations to aid their coexistence with the locals. Similarly, Brisbane airport authorities also came up with a plan for noise mitigation that would ensure compensation of affected individuals (Rissik & Reis, 2013).  Rains (2017) also discussed Brisbane’s strategies for curbing noise interference among the local communities. Such outcomes are pointers towards the application of the stakeholder theory as described by Isa et al. (2016), who asserted that the value created by organizations for their stakeholders should be without a trade-off. Dhakal et al. (2012) reported the need for stakeholder engagement in airports to include aspects such as reporting strategies for particular things including pollution, emissions, noise and hours.


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