The Sky is the Limit in Aviation Market

February 27, 2012

The aviation industry represents a dynamic market, with enormous potential for transportation engineers to apply new tools to improve airport operations. Airports are seeking to gain competitive advantages by making travel to, from and through facilities more efficient for travelers in the wake of the vast changes in security and operations following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The recent merger of Dowling Associates and Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) has created an opportunity for the combined company to foster an active practice in the aviation arena because of the firm’s broad skill set.

“Technology has really opened up opportunities for a whole new service in terms of measuring performance,” said Senanu Ashiabor, senior engineering associate working in KAI’s Oakland office.

Aviation systems planning is one of Senanu’s areas of expertise. He developed an airport curbside operations model called Quick Analysis Tools for Airport Roadways (QATAR) that helps planners estimate queuing and congestion levels at airport terminals. The model was developed for Jacobs Consultancy as part of the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), which develops near-term, practical solutions to problems faced by airport operators. ACRP is managed by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies and sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Improving airport access is another area with potential for growth. Early on at Virginia Tech, where Senanu attended graduate school, he was part of a project that estimated the average air traveler spends more than half of his or her travel time on the ground, and 9/11 has made it worse.

Airports that provide a more efficient passenger experience stand to gain a competitive advantage. Smaller airports in metropolitan regions can exploit this advantage as well, he said.

Senanu was introduced to the airport market during his first semester at Virginia Tech. He learned about aircraft dynamics, how air traffic was managed in airport and national airspace, and designed airport terminals, including the airside and land-side facilities.

“It was both overwhelming and fascinating,” he said, “and I was definitely hooked and wanted to learn more.” He went on to a research assistant position at Virginia Tech, and as he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D., Senanu learned more about the U.S. aviation system and developed connections with the airport community through TRB committees.

Senanu’s interest in engineering blossomed at an early age as he tagged along to work with his father, a civil structural engineer who ran his own consulting firm in Ghana. He had already attended several project site meetings by the time he was in high school and was fascinated watching projects transform vacant lots into high-rise residential complexes.

“This early exposure and the opportunity to practice with my dad’s firm during school breaks made working on my undergraduate civil engineering degree in Ghana fun and a breeze,” Senanu said.

Today, in much the same way his father introduced him to the field, Senanu is helping KAI explore the many opportunities that exist in the aviation arena.

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