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Sustainable planning for next generation airports: a qualitative case study of airport planning practices and professionals

Mitchell, Michael E.
In the brief history of aviation, beginning in 1903 at a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, mankind's love and fascination with flight was propelled to new heights. As our nation began to develop a system of airports, it quickly became clear that a synchronized and efficient airport system could only thrive as a result of sound planning and engineering. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to determine the critical elements of the airport master plan, assess how each element impacts capital and fiscal planning for airport sponsors, and determine the benefits resulting from the implementation of a digital airport planning interface when compared to traditional methods. Data was collected through interviews with a specialized group of aviation management, planning, engineering, and regulatory professionals. The interviews were structured around a questionnaire containing ten questions that sought to identify each participant's professional and educational experience and surveyed their opinions regarding the effectiveness of traditional airport planning practices. The interviews also discussed inconsistencies existing with current aircraft operations data collection methods and garnered input regarding the proposed implementation of a digital airport planning interface. The data collected during the interviews was transcribed, coded, and analyzed using NVivo 14. The analysis identified four primary themes and sixteen secondary themes. The study defined the critical elements of the master plan and identified a clear need for the development of an advanced airport planning tool. Furthermore, the study determined the willingness of industry professionals to depart from traditional planning methods and accept the implementation of a digitally-based platform. The study recommended the refinement, development, and testing of a digital planning interface. The results of the study suggest a favorable climate for the implementation of the tool, increase the overall body of knowledge in academia and provide a recommended course of action in the field of aviation planning and engineering.