By Melissa Underwood, Senior Aviation Planner
Bolton & Menk, Inc.
Airport planning has become a key component when working towards federal funding for an airport capital improvement project. While spending entitlement dollars on the planning paperwork is not the most exciting item to pay for, the results are valuable for the airport staff, FAA, and the community. Completing successful Airport Master Plans, Airport Layout Plans (ALPs), and environmental assessments allow projects to move forward with the support and justification needed for federal funding.
There are two elements that have made planning successful at Bolton & Menk. One is community involvement and the second is the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) for alternatives, ALPs, and airspace review.
There is nothing more frustrating than to get a planning project approved, only to find out there are land owners unwilling to sell property or an expansion area saved for development plans for the city or county. Bolton & Menk begins Airport Master Plan and ALP projects with development of a Master Plan Advisory Group. The group is composed of airport users, local businesses, city/county staff, economic development authorities, tourism staff, neighboring land owners, and other committed community members to get all areas of the public at the table. The goal of the group is to meet four to five times throughout the project and allow members to share their professional expertise and knowledge with airport staff for airport development. Brainstorming and collaborative sessions bring new light to the impact the airport can have on the community in addition to educating community members about the airport. The members of the group are involved in making the 20-year plans for the airport, allowing acceptance and concurrence from more than airport staff. Bolton & Menk has seen the benefits of projects moving forward when this involvement has occurred during the planning process.
Planning and GIS
During the planning process, Bolton & Menk has helped communities save time and money by using GIS programs to evaluate alternatives, develop ALPs, and complete airspace review. This type of software allows development of multiple approach surfaces, departure surfaces, and critical areas to be analyzed for obstructions in a short time. Extending runway ends, shifting runways, or constructing hangars can be evaluated for airspace obstructions within hours instead of days with other software programs. The final result is an ALP that can be submitted on the FAA website that meets all of their new survey and submittal standards. Alternatives can be shared with Master Plan Advisory Group members online with real-time data to know which property owners are being impacted or how the county zoning standards exist around the airport. This program is also helpful when talking to land owners about farming around the airport or how future development may impact their property. Bolton & Menk has seen the benefits of this interactive planning process be used by more than airport staff. City andcounty staff, land owners, and the FAA have benefited from the results of these planning efforts.
Airport planning is not going away – it is actually becoming the key component for justification and eligibility of federally funded airport projects.