ACC News | 2024 AAAE/ACC APDC Symposium in Review

“The 2024 AAAE/ACC Airport Symposium showcased the industry’s commitment to innovation, sustainability, safety, and diversity. As the aviation sector stands on the brink of transformative changes, the symposium served as a catalyst for industry leaders to converge, collaborate, and shape the future. The insights gained from various sessions spanning project management to innovative technologies will help propel the industry to new heights, ensuring a seamless and sustainable future for aviation.” – Arora Engineers 

Plenary Sessions

An Olympic-sized Challenge: Airport Investments and Testing Emerging Technologies via World Events

The first plenary session brought together representatives of the 2024 Paris Olympics Renaud Duplay, Executive Director & Chief Operations of Groupe ADP, and Joel Couillandeau, CEO, Merchant Aviation, LLC along with Terri Mestas, Assistant General Manager Airports and Hans Thilenius, Improvement Program with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to share the strategies they have to create an efficient and personalized passenger experience. Focusing on accessibility and sustainability they shared how their airports plan to manage the influx of travelers for the Olympics in their respective cities.

The Future Is Now: AI’s Takeoff in Airports

The day two plenary session brought together experts in the fields of AI and airport development to explore how AI is poised to revolutionize the way airports function. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for decades but only recently became imbedded in the cultural zeitgeist. As this technology becomes a greater part of people’s lives, airport development is looking for ways to incorporate it into design, construction, and security. From improving decision-making to resource allocation, from enhanced customer service to overall operational excellence, AI will continue to innovate how passengers experience and interact with air travel.

Innovation Track

This year’s Symposium introduced the brand-new Innovation Track. The intent for this track was to offer insight into the innovation that has been the driving force behind the airport industry’s growth since its inception while also incorporating Young Professional (YP) involvement in lieu of the former YP mini tracks. As offered, the Innovation Track observed a convergence of the industry’s most forward-thinking and diverse minds discussing opportunities that have been at the forefront of many of our organizations.

The Innovation Track kicked off with a session organized by AAAE, ‘The Window Seat: How Leading Tech and Data will Shape Airports of the Future’. During this session, C-Suite executives, including Carter Morris (Executive Vice President, AAAE) representing airports and organizations that we are all familiar with (read: PHL, Mastercard, and LAWA), gave us a glimpse into what they view as the role of technology and data in airport evolution. ‘Sustainable Culture Change for a More Diverse and Inclusive Aviation Industry‘, provided us with insight into how to attract and retain diverse employees, how underrepresented groups see themselves in the industry, and how to be an effective ally. ‘Bridging the Gap: Transforming Operational Problem Statements into Technology Solutions’, consisted of a group of consultants and airports who discussed real-life technology applications to address operational inefficiencies. ‘Opportunities for AI in Aviation – Developing Innovative Solutions for Planning and Design’ was an extension of the plenary session, featuring Eve Machol (Managing Director, Airport/Transportation Industry, Microsoft), which discussed emerging technologies and Generative AI. This session dove deeper into how Generative AI could be applied directly to planning and design at airports while also showcasing how far AI has come since its inception in the 1970s and its many existing uses. The final session, ‘Raising your Profile and Expanding your Professional Reach’, attracted a large group of YPs, where they discussed how to tell your story and elevate your position in the market for people at all stages of their career.

All of the sessions were well attended, with especially large groups forming for both The Window Seat and the Opportunities for AI in Aviation sessions. The Innovation Track looks forward to another successful year in 2025!

Planning/Environmental Track

The Planning/Environmental Track for the 2024 Symposium provided excellent content and relevant information to attendees. All the hard work of our moderators and speakers paid off with packed rooms and great discussions. Often there would be a line to speak to a panelist for further conversation on topics long after the session ended.

The Track started off Tuesday morning with ‘Do Airports Dream of Electric Planes?’, a discussion on airport preparedness for electric aircraft and overall electric needs. A panel of experts explored how to plan for and incorporate the increased electrical demands and infrastructure needed for unmanned aircraft system (UAS), advanced air mobility (AAM), electric vehicles. They shared how to work with stakeholders and forecast area wide needs, where to look for potential funding opportunities, and how to incorporate vertiports and electrical service into planning documents.

Tuesday afternoon commenced with in-depth discussions, ‘Fly Towards the Future – Airport Capital and Facility Planning’, on all things capital planning with an overview from FAA on a systemwide perspective of needs and funding programs. San Antonio International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International, and Nashville International Airport presented highlights of their programs and use of various funding sources including successes and challenges.

Wednesday morning’s session, ‘Runways to Real Estate’ turned to off airport environments regarding land use. The new ACRP Report 259, Methods to Manage Tree Growth Near Airports, was highlighted as a tool to help airport operators and sponsors maintain safe approaches and preserve operations. Vegetative growth concerns around airports have become more of a concern as trees are continually growing. The report details how to identify areas of concern, data collection, and mitigation considerations and strategies. The conversation then turned to compatible land use planning surrounding airports and the benefits of compatible land use planning to the aviation system and communities surrounding airports.

Wednesday’s afternoons session, ‘Moving to a Greener Future’, focused more on the environment and what a greener future means to the panelists and how the aviation industry is moving towards the net zero goal. Different programs and focuses were highlighted at local, national, and international levels. The panel also included discussions on research, funding, and real-world applications both minor and significant that are getting airports closer to their goals.

The final session, ‘Environmental & Planning Hot Topics’, was a true panel discussion with leaders from the FAA and industry to discuss hot topics in the planning and environmental space for airports, from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) updates to runway length and runway classification. Being the last session, our moderator and panelists worked to keep a lively discussion between the audience and panelists. It was informative and entertaining, even without anyone breaking into rap.

Hosting the Planning/Environmental Track has been a rewarding experience. The hard work of the planning committee, the moderators and speakers produced not only an incredible Planning/Environmental Track but an overall amazing Symposium that continues to prove it is one of the best technical events in our industry and it was an honor to be a part of it.

Engineering/Airside Track

This year’s Engineering/Airside Track was as compelling, enlightening, and technical as projected. It was exciting to see our hard work come to fruition!

The diverse panels of industry experts shared their insight on everything from applying safety management systems at airports to social responsibilities to infrastructure and planning considerations for advanced air mobility. During the session ‘Achieving ISI Envision Project Certification – The Sustainability Movement’, attendees learned how the IND project has provided benefits for the entire state. In the ‘PFAS & Other Contaminates – Water Quality Updates’ session we were given insight into upcoming policy. The ‘Airfield Rehabilitation – Materials & Techniques’ session highlighted innovative techniques in construction. Overall, the Engineering/Airside track was well-received and informative for those who attended!

Terminal/Landside Track

The Terminal/Landside Track brought together specialists from airports, airlines, consulting firms to cover a number of engrossing topics. ‘Digital Identification Program for Check-in’ covered recent and successful deployment of touchless/100% self-service airport passenger and baggage processing at ticket counters for check-in. Panelists for the session ‘Wheels-up: The New Flight Path for Post-Pandemic Terminals’ discussed the next phase of the post-pandemic travel evolution and how it impacts the workplace, transit and mobility, hospitality, health and wellness, and retail spaces. ‘Innovation in Aviation: The Future of Mass Timber’ focused on the trend of aviation clients exploring the use of mass timber in their capital improvement program designs. The ‘PDX Terminal Core Redevelopment – Roof Installation and Update’ panel shared thoughts on innovative roof installation over existing terminal while minimizing operational impacts. The final session, ‘Innovative Blending of Art and Immersive Multimedia to Create a Sense of Place’, brought an interesting concept of using art in terminals to improve the passenger experience.

PM/CM Track

The PM/CM Track had an impressive turn out this year, with the first session, ‘Integration Done Right – The Design-Builder’s Guide to Aviation Design Management’, pulling in over 500 attendees! Panelist discussed the changes that have come about since v2.0 of the Professional’s Guide to Managing the Design Phase of a Design-Build Project was released. The rest of the track proved to be just as compelling. In ‘The Efficiencies of a GMP’ session, panelists shared stories and insights on how GMP was beneficial and things to watch out for procurement and contracting, collaboration, budgeting, and change management. Day two sessions, ‘It’s a Seller’s Market Out There – How to Get the Best Team for Your Project’, ‘Lessons Learned – Designing, Implementing, and Constructing A New Terminal’, and ‘Exploring Innovations and Best Practices of ORAT Programs for Airport Infrastructure’, covered a variety of topics, providing attendees with up to date insight on airport development management.  


This year’s APDC Symposium had so many amazing moments. Look back at the photos from the event to see, save, and share! 

Client Codes: SIPhotos   Event Codes: AAAE   Password: SLC2024

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