Airport-First Mentality Puts Aviation Projects in New Light
August 31, 2023 · Insights
By GMC Vice President of Aviation Ryan Pearce, PE
Reposition projects from infrastructure improvements to business development
When film producers for the Korean War epic, “Devotion,” approached the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport about transforming part of its airfield into a theater of military operations with a replica mid-20th century aircraft carrier, the logistics went far beyond building a set on site.
Utilizing 100 acres of the airfield including a crosswind runway required coordination with the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and well as local government authorities. It included a construction safety and phasing plan along with developing an airport safety special event plan.
While not a typical project for a general aviation airport, it was emblematic of the scope an airport project can encompass. When general aviation airports undergo improvements or expansions, they are more than a transportation project; they are major infrastructure projects, with a direct impact on economic development and community vitality.
As communities across the Sun Belt and Mid-South experience transformational growth, airport projects are becoming a vital component enabling these communities to compete for investment and business, in addition to serving residents. Across the United States, the FAA estimates airport development to reach more than $62 billion from 2023 to 2027, with small and medium hubs representing the fastest part of those infrastructure needs.
As a vital component to economic development, what seems contained within the airport expands beyond its properties with impacts that affect both residents and land development. For any airport improvement or expansion project to be successful in today’s climate, it requires an approach that is both long-term and mindful of those impacts.
Today’s projects require a holistic approach, moving beyond engineering and security mandates to also incorporate land-use planning and financing. Through this holistic lens, airport initiatives can elevate beyond the technical improvements to position these facilities and airfields as engines of growth and vitality.