General Introduction

Airport Systems Integration can involve over 50 Applications / Programs; have massive Information Technology Infrastructure; and have several dozen end users of various types and functions.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on building a New Airport.

 The Airport is like a small city. In addition to the standard airport function of processing People, Bags, Cargo, and Aircraft there are numerous stakeholders and Government Agencies who will also reside within the airport site. All of these tenants need to be taken into consideration when designing the new airport.

 Generally speaking, the design of the new airport will require some ‘entity’ to prepare the site plan, building detailed plans, airfield plans, road, and possible rail plans, airfield plans, and air traffic management plans to name a few. Plans also need to be made for all of the elements that will co-exist within these plans; like power, air-conditioning, fire, security, signage, and graphics, to name a few. In some geographic locations, it may be necessary to get Environmental Approvals once these plans are completed (this area will not be covered in this article).

Concept Plans

 The process of airport design generally begins with some form of a concept plan that provides the high-level airport projections (like how many passengers per year and how much cargo). The Concept Plan also shows where the airport will be located, the number of runways and show how it will interface to various roads and railways, external utilities (like water; sewerage; electrical mains). The Concept Plan also identifies what airlines will use the new airport; what services will be provided to the airlines (like aviation fuel, Baggage Handling; Passenger Loading Bridges); where the perimeter fencing is located; where fire and rescue is located; where Meteorological Equipment is located; where Police, Customs, Immigration, and CID are located; to name a few.

Strategic Plans

As you would expect, there is a lot of upfront planning that needs to take place before any detailed requirements can be established. The Airport Owner will generally retain some type of Consultancy to develop all of the above-mentioned plans and provide the owner will a strategic plan for the airport. As airports tend to expand over time, the strategic plan would also provide the details for subsequent phases of the airport growth (like adding new runways or buildings). This strategic plan would then be used to provide some form of financial projections (both construction and income) that could be used for the financial planning of the airport.

Detailed Plans

For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on the Terminal Building. The process, however, would be the same for every building/facility located on the airport site

The Terminal Building’s primary role is to process people and their luggage to access aircraft. Put another way, the role of the terminal building is the process people, bags and aircraft in a safe and environmentally friendly manner and provide access to conveniences (like food and gifts).

The Design of the Terminal Building involves several engineering disciplines;

  • Civil,
  • Structural,
  • Architectural,
  • Building Services,
  • Fire and Security,
  • Information Technology and,
  • Special Airport Systems

The design is generally done by one or more consultants who will produce Specifications and Drawings that could be used for Tendering / Bidding of the works. When the Specifications and drawings are completed there will be over 100 unique Specifications and 1000’s of drawings; at a minimum.

Depending on the type of Construction Project; Design and Build; Design Development and Build; Build based on detailed Construction Drawings; to name a few; This will dictate how many Specifications and Drawings have to either be developed by the Owner / Consultant or the Contractor. Regardless of the type of Construction Project, there will significantly more Detailed Specifications and over 10,000 Construction Drawings (note: this would apply to a Terminal Building of over 400,000 square meters). The number of drawings and specifications necessary would be approximated during the planning process. This needs careful attention, as it will drive the number of engineers and computers necessary to prepare the construction documents (drawing preparation and approvals is the most common underestimated function that delays the starting of works).

Airport Systems Integration – Introduction

There are several approaches that could be used to do Systems Integration. This article will focus on Functional Integration within common types of systems. The following are subsets of the Functional Integration and not inclusive of all systems.

 Building Systems (BS) Integration

  • Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing (MEP)
  • Building Management System (BMS)
  • Lifts, Escalators and Moving Walkways (LEMW)
  • Maintenance Management System (MMS)

 Information Technology Systems (ITS) Integration

  • Airport Information Management System (AIMS)
  • Information Network (IN)
  • Management Information System (MIS)
  • Point of Sale System (POS)
  • Master Clock System (MCS)
  • Gigabit Backbone Network (GBN)
  • Airport Operational Database (AODB)
  • Network Management System (NMS)
  • Cable Management System (CMS)
  • Fixed Communications System (FCS)

 Safety and Security Systems (SSS)

  • Fire Alarm System (FAS)
  • Closed Circuit Television System (CCTV)
  • Access Control System (ACS)
  • Public Address System (PAS)
  • Immigration System (IS)
  • Customs System (CS)
  • Police System (PS)

Special Airport Systems (SAS)

  • Baggage Handling System (BHS)
  • Passenger Loading Bridges (PLB)
  • Ramp Control System (RCS)
  • Gate Allocation System (GAS)
  • Passenger and Baggage Reconciliation System (PBRS)
  • Common Use Passenger Processing System (CUPPS)
  • Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE)
  • Self-service kiosk Check-In System (SSK)
  • Flight Information Display System (FIDS)

Now that you know the systems that you want to integrate, the use of a simple matrix will identify what systems need to communicate with the other systems. If you want to see how I populate this chart then Click Here to see the Video.


You will notice from the above chart that we are only considering Four Functional Systems with each one having a number of Subsystems. Essentially, the subsystems connect and share information with their respective Functional System. Each of the Functional Systems is connected together. Subsystems in one Functional System that require information from another Functional Systems subsystem are defined in the interface point; like the BMS to the MMS in the above chart (interface #7). Each interface will have its own Detailed Design Document (DDD) that defines all interface requirements required by the two systems. You will note that even the scaled-down version of systems integration (above chart) there are 28 Systems (with drawings and specifications) that have to be defined. Note: it is very rare that design consultants include all the details that are required in the DDD and as such, this is left to the Contractor to develop. This, in part, is that it is difficult to fully develop the DDD without the actual manufacturer’s data. Never-the-less, the development of the DDD is one of the critical path elements necessary for site acceptance testing and the time it takes to do this activity should not be underestimated.

To address the DDD development problem, it is necessary to at a minimum, prepare a graphic representation of the systems integration requirements. The following graphic will show the requirements. 



The graphic can be further developed as the following drawing shows.


Systems Integration Conclusions

  1. Systems Integration is complicated – even in the above example, it would require and engineering staff with expertise in 28 Systems.
  2. The owner’s requirement must be fully explored to ensure that the systems that are integrated perform the functions required.
  3. Questions need to be answered regarding the Fiber/Copper wiring infrastructure. Do all systems use the same Fiber/Copper wiring and common Gigabit Data Network? Will Police, Customs and Immigration agree to this? Which systems will require a separate data network?
  4. Will the Contractor or the Designer prepare the DDD’s?
  5. Will there be a Systems Integration section in each Specification?
  6. Will there be a Master Systems Integration Specification and specialist contractor?
  7. Will Systems Integration be based on Functional Grouping or all systems combined into one large system?

The concepts and design criteria will be provided in subsequent articles.

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