Pablo Ramos
Azul PR
View from the Top

Do’s and Don’ts in the Construction of NAICM

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:20

Q: How has the aviation sector in Mexico evolved?

A: The aviation sector has changed considerably in the past 20 years. Previously, only one entity, ASA, regulated all airports in the federal airport system. Today, each airport operates as a private company with various airport groups in charge of managing operations and generating revenue, which has made them much more efficient than they ever were. This also helped aviation grow in the country; there are now more flights and more routes available, as well as more passengers per airport. Passenger flow is increasing at airports across the country. Even though Mexico City remains the largest terminal in the country, it is no longer the most important connection point for passengers. Cancun, Guadalajara and Monterrey are expanding their terminals so clients do not have to go through Mexico City to reach their final destination. This is not a bad thing considering that Mexico City International Airport (AICM) is already oversaturated.

Even though the sector has grown, there are also deficiencies related to the government’s infrastructure management. The country waited too long to build a new airport in Mexico City and I fear that in its early stages, the NAICM project will be insufficient to address the needs of the Mexican public. We will have to wait approximately 10 years for more runways to open and a second terminal to be available so the airport can truly support the country’s needs and infrastructure.

Q: What role does Azul PR play in the development of airport infrastructure?

A: We began operations 20 years ago by representing the company ADB Airfield Solutions. This company was owned by Siemens, which helped us grow considerably in the market. Even after ADB was sold to an investor group, its growth allowed us to develop our position in Mexico. Together with ADB, we offer innovative and FAA-approved lighting solutions such as proximity and precision approachpath indicators to our clients.

ADB is the company that has developed the most products in collaboration with the FAA. Although these are tested in the US and Canada first, our proximity to these countries has helped us incorporate new technologies into Mexico’s infrastructure. We have supplied and modernized almost all airports in Mexico since ASA was in charge of the country’s airport infrastructure. Once airport groups began operating, companies were more open to modernization and we were responsible for the installation of the first LED lighting in Mexico’s airports. Some companies were reluctant to include this technology at first but now almost all use LED lighting.

Q: What new technologies are you bringing to Mexico’s airports?

A: The airports most open to innovation are those located in the south and southeast of the country. This is where we have installed the first full LED runways, solar windsocks and low-consumption energy regulators or advanced powersupply systems. These last components have helped clients reduce energy consumption by 90 percent, eliminating the extra electronics needed in LED installations. Although we have received requests to install this equipment in other airports, it has been difficult to promote these components because the government has no way of testing them, which means they are not certified or regulated in the country. The government is working on regulations and we expect these to be ready in the next two years.

Q: What do you see as the main deficiencies in the development of NAICM?

A: Its location will prove a challenge in terms of accessibility and costs. There is infrastructure in place to reach the airport but it will need to be improved once it starts operating. Regarding costs, the new airport is being constructed in what was previously the Texcoco lake. This is increasing the project’s budget substantially and once it is finished, companies might find operational problems due to the type of land. These problems might lead to the closing of runways and terminals.

The government’s rush to finish the project could also cause problems in the future. Runways alone need five to six years to be fully operational after a one to two-year period during which the land has to be prepared. Meanwhile, the government has a timeline of three to four years to complete the project.

Q: What would you recommend regarding the construction of NAICM?

A: The first thing would be to take the necessary time to build the airport. The government is taking the right steps to prepare the land but they are not planning to give it the proper time to preload and compact. Contractor integration is also crucial for the project to succeed. There are several companies involved in the construction of the runways and terminals and if they do not know what the other is doing, they might encounter problems. Every aspect of the construction is connected and any delay or malfunction will impact the development of the entire airport and its operations.

Q: What is Azul PR technology’s proposal for NAICM?

A: We want to introduce technology currently used only in European airports. With the recent merger between ADB and the Safegate Group, we created a larger portfolio with more solutions for our clients. We can now participate in the development of control towers, runways and platforms, which no other company can do. We want to integrate all these systems in NAICM, from lighting and automated docking systems to smart traffic control.

These technologies would help Mexico reach the concept of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM). By integrating all operators participating in the docking of an airplane, we can reduce the time an aircraft spends on platform by up to 30 percent and prevent the airport’s oversaturation. ACDM is already used in many cities in Europe and some airports have already made it a standard in their operations. However, for ACDM to work there needs to be collaboration between controllers, airlines and airport operating staff. Integration is complicated but not impossible and if we want flawless activities in the future, we must embrace this standard.