Partnering across borders

Fin Bonset | 04 Jan 2016 | Comments

Partnering across borders to build aviation excellence.

With a population of almost 200 million people, a gross domestic product of $2.4 trillion, and a relatively high trade freedom open market, Brazil currently represents one of the world’s largest economies. Although its economy is expected to record the largest contraction in over a decade in 2015—plagued by depressed private consumption and low prices for commodities—aviation investment and infrastructure requirements through airport privitization is still a significant focus. The Brazilian government plans to privatize its major airports system and bring in international expertise to ensure system efficiency and the latest technologies to enhance overall capacity. 

But to regain its economic growth, major reform within its government will need to take place in terms of economic priorities and dependence on commodity prices. The Brazilian government has seen the need for investment in its infrastructure and has pushed for international aid through private public partnerships. This is where opportunities for partnership with international firms such as Atkins exist, especially those with aviation planning and engineering expertise. There is also interest from Brazilian infrastructure firms to expand and invest outside of Brazil, especially in the U.S. where we’re also seeing a likely trend of privatizing terminals and other airport development projects. Several Brazilian firms have done this type of work throughout the last 10 years and are looking for new opportunities, with U.S. firms serving as their technical advisors. 

To foster these relationships, a strategic initiative has been established by the United States Trade and Development Agency’s International Business Partnership Program (IBPP). This program connects U.S. technological and business expertise with the developing needs of middle-income countries—helping to create lasting, mutually beneficial business partnerships. Specifically, a U.S.-Brazil Aviation Partnership was launched in 2012 that now serves as a structured vehicle between the two country’s aviation industries—enhancing cooperation in airport expansion, airspace management, safety and security.

Workshops and training sessions are conducted by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including significant private sector involvement and covering topics such as airport certification, air traffic flow management, airport security, quality of airport service, airport planning, and aerospace education. Mutual priorities are considered and industry best practices are shared to foster relationships for future business opportunities. I was honored to be among the team who flew to Brazil for a recent training session, serving as a subject matter expert on airport design. 

I presented new and existing methodologies, including the move to geographic information systems (GIS) applications and the integration of business and strategic plan initiatives. I also discussed building information modeling (BIM)—which has not yet been used for Brazil’s airport systems, creating another opportunity for advancement. For me, discussing FAA taxiway design standards and the latest and greatest airport master planning techniques was the most exciting aspect of my trip. FAA’s taxiway design parameters have undergone major schematic changes, allowing opportunities for significant savings on overall construction costs. 

Together with Kent Duffy who leads FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), we discussed how the U.S. is addressing current capacity constraints on its National Airspace System by implementing new technologies—such as performance-based navigation (PBN) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems—and the positive effects they are already creating on overall system capacity. 

And although Brazil has recently experienced a lagging economy, it is expected to recover quickly and we are excited for the major improvements that are possible in the region. With 2016 Olympic Games taking place in Brazil, authorities are taking note and acknowledging systems (like NextGen) that may very well be applicable at some of their major airports. 

By helping Brazilian authorities understand these changes and technologies, and preparing them for future applications of similar concepts, we’re laying a strong foundation to build successful partnerships for future projects. Through programs such as the IBBP, we are helping to build opportunities to improve both the aviation industry and the global travel experience.