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Airport Regions Dealing with Old & New Challenges in a Changing World: ARC’s Annual Spring Conference

The ARC's Annual Spring Conference brought together experts and stakeholders to address the evolving challenges and opportunities in airport regions. The conference featured insightful sessions that explored various dimensions of airport-related development, including urban and territorial, mobility, economic, environmental, and social aspects. Each session provided valuable perspectives and strategic insights into the complex dynamics of airport regions.

Credit: City of Vantaa

Session 1: The Urban and Territorial Dimension

  • Dr. Johanna Sonnenburg, Research Associate, TUB

Dr. Johanna Sonnenburg presented a compelling talk titled "Stronger Together! Public-Private Cooperation as a Success Factor for Airport Regions." She introduced the concept of the "Airea," a new spatial and functional category designed to analyse and describe airport-related development within metropolitan regions. Dr. Sonnenburg emphasised the importance of public-private cooperation in fostering successful development within Airea, advocating for integrated approaches that align the interests of various stakeholders.

  • Wolfgang Scheibenpflug, Senior Vice President Real Estate and Landside Management, Vienna Airport

Wolfgang Scheibenpflug's presentation, "Vienna AirportCity Strategic Direction," showcased the strategic and economic opportunities within the Airport City concept. Vienna Airport has adopted a multifaceted approach to transform its airport into a thriving urban hub, offering a wide range of services and facilities that extend beyond traditional airport functions.

Mr. Scheibenpflug underscored the need to leverage these diverse elements to create a dynamic and economically robust Airport City, positioning Vienna Airport as a pivotal node in regional development.

Credit: City of Vantaa

Session 2: The Mobility Dimensions

  • Jan Eklund, Intermodality Strategist, Swedavia

Jan Eklund's presentation, "The State of Multimodality at Swedavia’s Airports and the Way Forward," focused on Swedavia's mission to develop Sweden’s national airport infrastructure while achieving transport policy goals. Swedavia aims to become fossil-free by 2045 and enhance the multimodal connectivity of its ten airports. He discussed the strategic vision for 2030, which includes transforming airports into seamless multimodal hubs with improved connections to other transport modes. Eklund highlighted the importance of integrating drones and eVTOLS and emphasized the need for a holistic approach and collaboration with local and regional authorities.

  • Jenni Eckhardt, FIT ME! Project Coordinator

Jenni Eckhardt presented on the "FIT ME! Project," which aims to create a tourism mobility ecosystem that crosses sectoral, regional, and administrative boundaries. The project focuses on improving the mobility experience for individual travellers, particularly in remote destinations with limited services. She highlighted the importance of customer-centric approaches to enhance travel experiences and reduce stress, promoting new mobility concepts that improve accessibility, sustainability, and the overall profitability of tourism destinations.

  • Kay Plötner, MultiModX Project Coordinator

Kay Plötner’s presentation introduced the  MultiModX project: “Integrated Passenger-Centric Planning of Multimodal Networks," aiming to develop innovative multimodal solutions and decision support tools for coordinated planning and management of transport networks. He discussed objectives such as creating a Schedule Design Solution for integrated air and rail planning, a Disruption Management Solution for coordinated passenger reallocation, and frameworks for multimodal performance evaluation. Plötner emphasized the goal of nurturing conditions for the transfer of MultiModX solutions to subsequent research and innovation stages.

  • Ivo Cré, Director of Policy and Projects, Polis

Ivo Cré discussed "The Mobility Dimension: Urban Nodes in the TEN-T," highlighting new EU legislation and its impacts on urban nodes. He explained that by 2027, urban nodes must have Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) and submit mobility data to the European Commission. By 2030, developing multimodal passenger hubs is required, and by 2040, access to multimodal freight terminals must be ensured. Cré emphasised the need for effective governance structures at the urban nodal level, the importance of local leadership, and the necessity for active collaboration among stakeholders to facilitate the development of multimodal infrastructures.

Credit: City of Vantaa

The Role of Aviation in the Building of an Accessible Europe

  • Henna Virkkunen, Member of the European Parliament

Henna Virkkunen drew attention to the crucial role of aviation in building an accessible Europe, emphasising that airports should be viewed not in isolation but as part of a collective network functioning as a single market. She briefly introduced the work being done within the Connecting Europe Facility framework, which aims to promote growth and improve mobility and connectivity in Europe. She emphasised her full commitment to this program and her dedication to furthering this matter if given the opportunity.

Credit: City of Vantaa

Session 3: The Economic Dimension - Aviapolis Case

  • Kimmo Mäki, CEO, Finavia

Kimmo Mäki's presentation, "Connectivity and Success of Aviapolis," emphasised the importance of seamless connectivity and robust infrastructure in promoting Finland’s accessibility. Finavia Group manages 20 airports in Finland and is committed to building seamless flight connections. Despite challenges such as the closure of Russian airspace, which has reduced direct flights to Asia, Helsinki Airport remains the best-connected airport in Northern Europe. Mäki highlighted the Helsinki Airport Development Programme (2013-2023) and its role in enhancing connectivity. The Aviapolis area, supported by Helsinki Airport, employs 20,000 people daily and requires a collaborative effort from the airport corporation, city, government, and local businesses to ensure its continued success. Real estate development is both a business opportunity and an enabler for the area's growth, with new projects including a hotel and cargo terminal.

  • Tommo Koivusalo, Director of Economic Development, Vantaa City

Tommo Koivusalo’s presentation, "Aviapolis – the Future of Vantaa," highlighted Vantaa’s strategic advantages as Finland’s fourth-largest city with superior transport connections and a rapidly growing international business sector. Vantaa is committed to becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2030 through measures such as improving building energy efficiency, developing urban structures, and enhancing public and electric transport. Aviapolis, an international business and residential area adjacent to Helsinki Airport, boasts top accessibility, a leading shopping centre, and significant hotel infrastructure. Koivusalo outlined ambitious development plans, including new districts, rail expansions, a major hotel, a renewed museum, an international school, and future projects like an arena and headquarters.

Credit: City of Vantaa

Session 4: The Environmental Dimension

  • Laurent Leylekian, PULSAR Project Coordinator

Laurent Leylekian presented the PULSAR project, which aims to create a roadmap for European aviation research and innovation focusing on environmental aspects. By developing and evaluating various socio-economic scenarios and technology enablers, PULSAR seeks to identify key technologies to achieve policy objectives and provide crucial insights for stakeholders and policymakers. The project aims to connect research and education, ensuring the effective integration of emerging technologies. Leylekian emphasised that meeting environmental goals depends on economic trends, social willingness, resource access, technology achievements, and market readiness, with PULSAR poised to guide the aviation industry in delivering on these commitments.

  • Virginie Pasquier, OLGA Project Coordinator

Virginie Pasquier's presentation on the "hOListic & Green Airports (OLGA)" project highlighted its innovative approach to reducing the environmental impact of the aviation sector by focusing on objectives such as reducing CO2 emissions, optimising energy efficiency, preserving biodiversity, and improving air quality and waste management. Key developers include Paris Charles de Gaulle as the lighthouse airport, alongside Milano Malpensa, Zagreb, and Cluj Napoca as fellow airports. Pasquier delved into Work Package 4.3 Biodivers.IT, which aims to create a comprehensive dashboard for operational monitoring and management aligned with international regulatory standards. This involves developing tools for rapid, standardised data collection, automatic detection of undesirable weeds, and integrating data from various sources into a centralised dashboard for biodiversity monitoring. The project also includes a decision-making tool that provides personalised recommendations based on the collected data, global performance indicators to meet international biodiversity standards, and an implementation guide to foster the replication of these innovations at airports worldwide.

  • Charlotte Verreydt, STARGATE Project Coordinator

Charlotte Verreydt's presentation on the STARGATE project outlined the consortium's mission, vision, and key initiatives aimed at significantly enhancing the sustainability of airport ecosystems. STARGATE's mission is to develop, test, and deploy innovative solutions to make airports more sustainable, with a vision to set a benchmark for sustainable ecosystems and inspire other airports worldwide. The project focuses on three major axes and over thirty projects, which include further decarbonisation, improving local environmental quality, and stimulating modal shift. Initiatives such as promoting the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), testing renewable energy alternatives like electric and hydrogen mobility solutions, and identifying opportunities for resource-saving and waste reduction in terminal operations are central to achieving decarbonisation and circularity goals. Verreydt highlighted several pilot projects and collaborative efforts that STARGATE has initiated to create more sustainable airport environments.

  • Fokko Kroesen, TULIPS Project Coordinator

Fokko Kroesen, as the TULIPS Project Coordinator, presented on "Smart Energy Hubs for airports," highlighting the project's aim to demonstrate lower-polluting solutions for sustainable airports across Europe. He emphasised the project's focus on accelerating the transition to sustainable aviation through innovative technologies and practices. Kroesen outlined key goals, including the development of low-emission aircraft technologies, implementation of sustainable fuels, and optimisation of airport operations to reduce environmental impact. By collaborating at four diverse airports and leveraging input from a broad coalition of partners, the project aims to showcase the impact of these solutions on European climate targets. Successful demonstration of specific actions to accelerate sustainability in various scenarios will serve as a model for implementing innovations throughout Europe. 

Credit: City of Vantaa

Session 5 - The Social Dimension

  • Pia Pakarinen, CEO of the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce

Pia Pakarinen provided insights into the impact of talent shortages on the Helsinki Metropolitan area. She discussed demographic shifts, highlighting a significant decrease in the working-age population in the Nordics and Baltics, primarily due to a decline in the total fertility rate. Pakarinen emphasised the crucial role of net immigration in sustaining population growth, noting a rise in individuals with a foreign background, including international experts contributing to the capital region.

  • Pia Illikainen, Director of the Finnish Aviation Museum

Pia Illikainen elaborated on the museum's pivotal role within the airport area ecosystem. Operating under the Finnish Aviation Museum Foundation, the museum serves approximately 50,000 annual visitors and is dedicated to preserving aviation history and heritage in Finland. Illikainen emphasised the museum's mission to promote understanding of aviation's impact on everyday lives, fostering lifelong relationships with visitors, and inspiring careers in aviation. Plans to renovate the museum into a modern event centre align with the development of the Aviapolis area, aiming to attract over 100,000 annual visitors and enrich the cultural landscape of the airport region.

Credit: City of Vantaa

Closing Words

  • Turkka Kuusisto, CEO of Finnair

Turkka Kuusisto, reflected on Finnair's rich history of connecting Finland to the world for over a century. With a network spanning almost 100 destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the US, Finnair boasts a dedicated team of approximately 5,600 employees. As a testament to its excellence, Finnair has been recognised as the best airline in Northern Europe by Skytrax for an impressive 13 consecutive years. Kuusisto emphasised the collaborative nature of aviation, highlighting the importance of partnership and cooperation in achieving shared goals.

  • Tuija Telén, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Mayor

Tuija Telén, underscored the significance of identifying key aviation research efforts, particularly in relation to environmental goals and the expectations of European citizens, as the region moves towards elections for new members of the European Parliament. Telén's remarks emphasised the critical role of policymakers in driving forward initiatives that prioritise environmental sustainability and meet the needs of European citizens.

Credit: City of Vantaa


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