Category Archives: Environmental Affairs

Achieving a More Sustainable Airport Industry Every Day

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Airports are more than gateways to travel.  Airports are gateways to a more sustainable community. And while the calendar says today is Earth Day, airports are in the business of being stewards of the environment all year long. I am especially proud of the positive work North American airports undertake every day to be good neighbors, leading the way in establishing environmental best practices in local communities.

Earlier this week during our Airports@Work Conference in Austin, TX, ACI-NA recognized the airport industry’s very best in environmental achievement.  Each year, the ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Awards are presented to airports that strive persistently to preserve the environment. This year, we are proud to recognize Tampa International Airport, Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Vancouver Airport Authority, and Nashville International Airport for their continued leadership in protecting the environment, educating their community, and creating a more sustainable industry.

As they advance this important work, our member airports continue to impress in their ability to innovate and implement better and more sustainable strategies to protect and preserve the environment. Minimizing our industry’s environmental footprint not only protects valuable natural resources, but it also makes great business sense because we know that sustainable business habits reduce operating costs.

North American airports are also demonstrating global leadership and becoming better partners in the aviation system by managing and reducing their carbon footprint.  As North American airport participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program grows, ACI-NA applauds the significant steps airports are taking to be leaders in environmental stewardship.

ACI-NA joined Airport Carbon Accreditation and recognized Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as the first North American airport to attain certification in 2014.  Since ACI-NA joined the program, 12 North American airports have joined more than 150 global airports in attaining certification, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Montréal – Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport, Portland International Airport, Portland Hillsboro Airport, Portland Troutdale Airport, Victoria International Airport, Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, Denver International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.

Join me in congratulating San Francisco and Winnipeg as the newest members of the Airport Carbon Accreditation family.  By achieving the ambitious goals of Airport Carbon Accreditation, these airports are setting our industry on a path toward continued success in innovation and sustainability.

These powerful results are not because of ACI-NA.  This leadership in environmental stewardship comes directly from engaged industry through ACI-NA’s Environmental Affairs Committee.  ACI-NA’s Environmental Affairs Committee – one of our largest and fastest growing committees – is responsible for the development and implementation of ACI-NA environmental policy positions on issues such as noise, air quality, water quality, waste management, wildlife, and environmental review processes. Over the last few years, this group has undertaken major industry projects to set our industry on a course for a more sustainable future, and their work is paying off on Earth Day and every day.

Airports and Wildlife: Why Doesn’t the Today Show Present the Full Story?

“Why don’t more airports use radar to prevent dangerous bird strikes?” blared the headline from a segment that aired on yesterday’s broadcast of Today (February 19). Although the reporter in the piece never provided an answer to this question, he did charge ahead in pursuit of an agenda that implied U.S. airports aren’t committed to safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The report ignored the work that thousands of airport professionals do to mitigate wildlife hazards every day and the millions of dollars that they invest every year on fencing, habitat management, wildlife harassment, and wildlife monitoring activities, all of which have been effective in reducing wildlife hazards at our nation’s airports. The report also sidestepped any mention of significant wildlife hazard management requirements that the FAA has on the books. These include conducting wildlife hazard assessments and developing, implementing, and regularly updating comprehensive wildlife hazard management plans. These plans and the resources airports dedicate to implementing them provide concrete evidence of how seriously airports take wildlife hazards.

Although avian radar systems can be components of such plans, many airports have found that other hazard mitigations provide greater safety benefits and address their specific wildlife management challenges most effectively. These decisions have been made by highly trained professionals at our airports—including qualified wildlife biologists—based on data, detailed assessment of wildlife hazards, and understandings of their local airports’ circumstances. (That’s certainly the engineer in me talking, which I’m sure doesn’t make for a good soundbite.)

Airport professionals are called upon to make decisions about the technologies, processes, procedures, and capital investments that will produce the best safety outcomes given available resources, be those people, money, or time. Yet at the same time, airports have been unnecessarily constrained in terms of how they can finance these solutions.  Specifically, we’ve seen Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding decrease and the purchasing power of its companion funding mechanism, the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee, decline by half over time even as new, promising safety technologies like avian radar have emerged.

The Today reporter did acknowledge that avian radar is expensive at the conclusion of his segment, but his insinuation that individual airports just don’t want to foot the bill at the expense of safety is a simplistic and dangerous misrepresentation.  Introducing new legislation to require the use of avian radar at all U.S. airports would only create a yet another unfunded mandate for airports.  Instead, the smarter solution would be for Congress to implement common-sense reforms to airport funding mechanisms that ensure they both provide sustainable and secure support to maintain our current airport system and invest in new and emerging technologies like avian radar.

Ultimately, though, why not focus on all the important elements that make up managing wildlife hazards at airports instead of making ill-informed assumptions? I’ve got some ideas, but am guessing they don’t make for good TV.

Chris Oswald
Vice President, Safety and Regulatory Affairs
ACI-NA

Earth Week 2014: Wildlife Management at YVR: Birds with Jobs

by David Bradbeer
Wildlife Program Specialist
Vancouver Airport Authority

Safety and security is at the heart of Vancouver International Airport’s operations. An essential part of our mandate is ensuring the safe and efficient movement of aircraft and passengers to and from our airport, and that’s why we have a comprehensive wildlife management program in place.

Given our location along the Pacific Flyway, Sea Island is home to several local bird species, as well as a popular stopover for flocks of migratory birds heading south or north, depending on the season. The proximity of feathered birds to metal birds poses a serious risk to aviation safety. To combat potential bird strikes, our wildlife program consists of four components: monitoring, habitat management, movement of birds through harassment techniques and, where there is a perceived safety risk to aviation, killing of birds.

One relatively new element of our habitat management and bird movement plan is the use of trained raptors. We use falcons, hawks and – new this year – eagles to scare away hazardous bird species from the airfield. Bird species that pose a significant risk to aviation safety include flocking shorebirds like dunlin and geese.

To ensure that we use trained raptors as effectively as possible, we have teamed up with Pacific Northwest Raptors, whose professional falconers “fly” the trained raptors. The newest member of our raptor family is Hercules, a captive-raised juvenile bald eagle, whose job is to chase ducks and snow geese away from the active airfield.

When not being flown on the airfield, Hercules and his colleagues make their home in a specially-designed cage or mews. Local Burkeville neighbours may hear some noise coming from the mews:  this is the raptors begging for food from their handlers. Hercules in particular is quite vocal, but this behavior is normal.

Another group of raptors on Sea Island are not as welcome as Hercules and his trained falcon friends. Wild raptors such as red-tailed hawks, barn owls, coopers hawks and peregrine falcons are difficult to control and typically resist attempts to scare or harass them away from the airfield. To ensure these birds do not come into contact with aircraft, we use an Environment Canada-approved trap and relocation program. Once trapped, a certified master bander affixes a band or tag to the bird for identification. Tagged birds are relocated and released in Chilliwack within 36 hours of capture. In 2013, the wildlife team managed to trap, band and relocate 96 raptors. This is a very important component of our wildlife management and airfield safety program.

For more on YVR’s wildlife management program, check out my post on the YVR blog.  You can also watch a video to learn how our wildlife team uses specially trained border collies to keep YVR’s airfield safe:

Puppies from YVR Media Relations on Vimeo.

Earth Week 2014: SFO Takes the LEED in Environmentally Friendly Design

by Emily Sing
Engineer, Environmental Services and Sustainability
San Francisco International Airport

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been at SFO for 2 years now. I look back to the first day I started and remember asking myself, “How am I going to get myself up to speed on all the environmental programs going on here?” My solution was to just jump in, and that’s exactly what I did. From day one (okay, maybe day two), I realized that the work at SFO goes beyond regulatory compliance. We really strive to make a difference, and although this might sound corny, I really believe every day at SFO is Earth Day.

Our mission is “to provide an exceptional Airport in service to our communities.” And that includes all our local neighboring communities, which is why we strive to minimize our environmental impact everywhere we can. That is definitely not an easy task, even for a progressive airport like SFO.  I am fortunate to have airport leadership vested in sustainability and a team that is not afraid to push the envelope. We celebrate successes when the whole organization pitches in.

Right before I joined the airport, SFO opened T2 which became the first LEED Gold certified terminal in the US, and since then, every future construction project has been designed to achieve LEED Gold.  But the innovation didn’t stop there.  Later this year, we will open a new airfield operations facility (AOF) which is also designed to achieve LEED Gold and will be the airport’s first-ever net-zero energy facility, generating as much energy as it uses. The AOF is designed to be 50 percent more energy efficient than the ASHRAE standard, taking advantage of energy efficiencies that go beyond conventional design approaches.

Some of the key features of the AOF building include a high-performance building envelope, a solar tube lighting system and glazed perimeter walls which bring natural light deep into work spaces.  The dynamic perimeter glazing adjusts automatically as solar conditions change. Combined with high-efficiency, low-maintenance LED lighting and adjustable lighting controls, the design drastically reduces electricity use.  Other features include individual control of ventilation systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures and native California plantings that require no irrigation. To achieve net-zero, 72 kW of solar panels will be installed on the roof of the building.

SFO has established itself as an international industry leader in sustainability.  We take our role as an environmental steward seriously, challenging the SFO team to implement proactive and innovative projects like T2 and the AOF. I invite you to come visit our facilities when you fly into SFO and see for yourself.

Earth Week 2014: Toronto Pearson Gearing Up for Creek Cleanup

by Derek Gray
Manager, Environmental Services
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Regardless of the weather this Friday, approximately 30 GTAA staff will be taking part in our annual creek cleanup.

Now in its twelfth ‎year the cleanup occurs along a section of Spring Creek that is within the primary security line and not accessible by the general public.

Spring Creek upstream of Toronto Pearson International Airport is a highly urbanized watershed with a mix of commercial, industrial and residential land uses.

This mixed land use always leads to the possibility of “interesting” finds and a contest for participants. Each year prizes are awarded for those “interesting” finds. Over the years some prize-worthy finds have included a satellite dish, a full-sized baby carriage and a roll of perforated drainage pipe.

The more common garbage removed from the creek are plastic bags, single serving beverage containers and Styrofoam packing.  I’m looking forward to this year’s “interesting” find and the cleanup effort.