06 Nov Airport Expansion: Progress First, Safety Always


Construction works in and around an operational airport creates hazards to aviation. The hazards are not always obvious to those who have not operated in an airport environment before, and they can be especially hard to manage during massive projects involving thousands of people. Early awareness is the key to achieving “Progress First, Safety Always”.

Understanding aerodrome operational safety requirements early on during the tendering stage is a competitive advantage

Ambitious Plans

Singapore, for example, has proceeded with ambitious plans to develop a new Terminal 5 on a plot of land to the east of the Changi Airport, fondly known as the Changi East Development. The project will include a runway extension, refurbishment of an existing runway, new taxiways, parking stands, an industrial zone and a mega-terminal that will accommodate 50 million passengers per annum.

To ensure connectivity to the new Terminal, the local mass rapid transit train and road network will also be extended and expanded. The project is so large that, at its peak, more than 20,000 construction workers are expected to be involved.

The magnitude of safety risks

Construction works of this magnitude taking place alongside the normal operations of a busy airport create safety risks that can be difficult for a contractor to foresee and complex for the airport authority to manage. The odds of a catastrophic safety event increase significantly.

Safety areas associated with runways and taxiways are usually unmarked and the risk of an incursion is always present. Safeguarding navigation aids and obstacles imposes restrictions on when, where and how construction work can be carried out. In addition, jet blast is a constant threat to workers on the airfield in areas that personnel are normally not present when aircraft is operating. These are just a few of the potential hazards.

To maintain high safety standards during large brownfield airport expansion projects, the airport authority will need to take extensive safety measures to ensure that the safety of aircraft operations and the construction workforce are not compromised.

Importance of early awareness

Prescribing the safety requirements can help eliminate any need for interpretation and facilitate enforcement. On the other hand, blind compliance with the requirements could stifle productivity. Progress and safety can, however, be mutually supportive. The key to achieving this is early-stage awareness.

Contractors that will be carrying out works for a brownfield airport expansion first need to have good knowledge of the relevant aviation operational safety requirements, the risks these are intended to mitigate and the consequent impacts on construction time and space. Understanding aerodrome operational safety requirements early on during the tendering stage is a competitive advantage. The ability to communicate this awareness in the proposal, and to counter the requirements by deploying innovative construction methods and alternative methods of risk mitigation to maintain productivity and progress, will differentiate them from other bidders.

To the airport authority, knowing that a tenderer is already aware of the requirements is an assurance that the necessary time, resources and budget have been allocated. This sets the foundation for successful project execution.


About To70. 
To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com.

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Boon Chai Lim
Boon Chai Lim
Boon Chai is Managing Director and Senior Consultant at to70’s office in Singapore. Since August 2017, he has been advising contractors involved in the Changi East development on aerodrome operations and safety requirements, assisting with work planning, review of method statements, conduct of risk assessments, management of stakeholders and aerodrome safety training, leveraging his training as a civil engineer, prior experience managing projects in the airfield, and track record as aerodrome safety regulator. More recently, he has advised contractors tendering for airport projects in Singapore and the Middle East.
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