Airport Planning

The 10,000 Foot View

Running an airport requires planning for the future in addition to managing daily operations.  Working closely with airport managers and staff, Reid Middleton helps to develop planning documents that guide stable, progressive growth in an orderly, systemic process.  They can include:

  • Master Plan & ALP Updates
  • Airport Site Assessment
  • Airport Industrial Site Development
  • Alternatives & Benefit Cost Analysis
  • Part 139 Certification Compliance
  • Airspace Evaluation
  • Obstruction Survey & Removal
  • AGIS (5300-18) Airfield Survey
  • Avigation Easements
  • Noise Studies
  • Land Use Compatability & Overlay Zoning
  • Property Acquisition
  • NEPA Environmental Permitting
  • Environmental Assessments
  • State and Local Permitting

0100+ airport layout plan updates

04 airports with safety risk projects

045+ years of airport master planning

William R. Fairchild Airport Master Plan Update

Port Angeles, WALearn More

Jefferson County International Airport AGIS Survey Instrument Procedure Development

Port Townsend, WALearn More

For the Visionary, it is all about the Future.


As Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” All airports have to plan for changing conditions. Though airports may look static, unchanging, with runways, taxiways, lights, and signs. But in truth, airports evolve over time. Sometimes they can change substantially.  Local, regional and even national changes in the economy, demographics, industrial and commercial development can dramatically change the demands placed on an airport.  Planning for the future allows airports to be proactive about meeting the changing conditions and continue to best serve their communities. An airport that isn’t updated to meet demands is an airport that isn’t serving the community well.

Master Plan: For airports, the most important planning is carried out at the local level. An airport master plan is the comprehensive study of the airport and typically presents the short-, medium-, and long-term development plans necessary to meet future aviation demand. Master Plans attempt to look 20 years into the future so that changes can be anticipated, designed, and built before the safety and capacity issues become a problem. The Master Plan represents the airport’s strategy for future development. The main goal is to present that strategy considering potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. Along with a benefit there is always a cost, and those need to be evaluated, weighed, considered, and shared so the community knows how the airport may change in the future.  No airport exists in a vacuum, as there are neighbors and the needs of the community to be considered.  An Airport’s Master Plan involves a public process that incorporates public reviews, comments, and consideration.subserviceairportplanning-image01-masterplan

ALP Update: The Airport Layout Plan drawing set graphically presents the planned development from the Master Plan. The drawings depict existing and future airport facilities, including facility identifications, imaginary surfaces (Safety and airspace criteria), runway protection zones, runway safety areas, and basic airport and runway data tables. But the ALP also includes plan set for terminal areas to accommodate passenger traffic and general aviation hangars and ramp spaces, including support facilities such as fueling stations and maintenance hangars. Airspace drawings are also included to show the dimensions and coverage of the protected airspace, which comes in handy when designating compatible land use zoning around the airport and preventing obstructions and safety hazards from being introduced.

Compatible Land Use: Anyone who has lived next to an airport understands that as much as airports serve the local community there can also be an impact, typically resulting from aircraft noise and safety concerns. Protecting the surrounding areas from non-compatible land uses, such as residential and commercial property development is an important aspect of preserving the airport’s utility and benefit. Safety concerns dictate that is a bad idea to place a school or hospital in immediate proximity to the runway centerline. Advanced planning for land uses is critical to preventing potential hazards. Working with local and state jurisdictions, an airport is required to be protected so it can continue to serve the community. This is done through zoning and development criteria that recognizes the potential conflicts and sets aside areas for uses that don’t create problems for the airport or the people in those areas.

AGIS Survey: In order to know the path to take that gets you where you want to go, you have to start by knowing where you are now. Without a full understanding of the existing conditions on an airport it can be very difficult to plan for the future. Airport Geographic Information System (AGIS) Surveys are the latest planning tool that completely and precisely maps an airport and the surrounding areas. The 3-Dimensional representation of the airport and the associated airspaces helps airport sponsor and the FAA understand not only the current conditions at the airport, but plan for the future. Precise airspace planning for improved instrument approaches, and the identification of obstacles and hazards to aircraft make flying into and out of an airport safer and more efficient. The aerial mapping provides a complete picture of the airport facilities, runway and taxiway layout, and helps identify where FAA runway design criteria are not being met. Future use planning that ties into the FAA’s “NextGen” airspace system requires a hyper-accurate representation of the airport, which is created using AGIS.

Project Planning: After the Master Planning process, which may use an AGIS survey to create the updated Airport Layout Plan, an airport will have a set of short-, and long-term projects identified that are designed to bring the airport into the future. The individual projects, now identified, still have to be designed, engineered, have environmental impact reviews, and be financed. Project planning involves not only looking at the single project, but how it fits within the larger goals and other projects at the airport. Priorities start with safety-related projects such as obstacle removal, runway length, and safety area improvements. This can also include pavement conditions and facilities updates that remove hazards and potential problems whenever possible. The next priority is meeting capacity and efficiency goals for the airport. It doesn’t make much sense to spend limited resources building a new parking lot when there are safety issues on the approach path to a runway.

Safety, efficiency, and capacity improvements are always priorities for an airport. Making sure the individual projects are conducted in a way that meets those goals is also critical.