An Interview with Shawn DeKold, Burns & McDonnell Regional Aviation & Federal Group Manager

Q: Change is accelerating at a faster rate than ever before. How is rapid change impacting transportation and the economy in Georgia?

A: Within the aviation industry, rapid change is making it critical for organizations to find ways to keep up or risk being left behind. Long-range planning is helping airports and airlines anticipate how shifts in political, economic, social, environmental and technological trends might impact the way they operate. For example, for decades, parking has been one of the biggest revenue generators for airports. Within the past few years, the rise in ride-sharing services and public transit has pushed airports to identify new ways to improve the passenger experience, while making up for the lost profit. This trend is factored into future airport enhancements and revenue generation.

Q: Many airports are facing challenges of increased air traffic, diverse aircraft fleets and space constraints. How do airports meet these growing demands effectively?

A: It’s often difficult and expensive for airports to expand. So, when faced with the challenge of upgrading or increasing airport efficiency, airlines and airports should evaluate the entire air travel experience. What amenities can be added? How can the airport experience be customized for the passengers? What can be done to speed up turnaround time? Technology solutions like biometrics, self-boarding, Automated Passport Control kiosks, Mobile Passport Control and Automated Screening Lane can help improve these efficiencies.

Factoring in new trends and technology, and partnering with a design or consulting firm that can offer a comprehensive approach, can help airports achieve that tech-savvy, convenient, efficient feel that today’s consumers expect. It is important to partner with a firm that understands how the ecosystem of an airport functions, as well as how overlaying the technology can help transform what the public experiences, by providing a “system of systems” approach capable of achieving the potential of smart facilities.

At the end of the day, an airport expansion still might be inevitable, so there should be a long-term vision for it. Creating a 20- to 40-year master plan can help focus that vision and provide an airport the time needed to plan, budget and adjust for it along the way.

Q: How is technology impacting the aviation industry?

A: Across the country, airports are developing strategies for the future of air travel and designing and building world-class terminals that deliver the ultimate passenger experience. Within each airport, there are complex hardware and software network systems that make a huge difference in both passenger experience and operational efficiencies. Integration among those systems is essential for strong, informed decisions based on data collected in real time. By integrating special systems and data, airports and airlines can develop strategies for aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue improvement through technology, providing them with safe, secure, convenient and consistent systems.

Learn more about how technology is impacting the aviation industry and how to enhance the passenger experience at