An airport master plan is a comprehensive study of an airport and describes the short, medium, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand at the airport. Airport master plans serve as flexible facility development guides for a long-range planning horizon and summarize an airport’s strategy for the development of the airport. The Airport Master Plan for Dulles will support aviation growth through 2045.
The Airports Authority embarked on the preparation of an airport master plan to guide future development at Dulles. The previous Dulles Master Plan was completed in 1985 and most of its recommendations have now been implemented. Coupled with the significant impacts to air travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the Airports Authority have a comprehensive plan to guide future Airport development in a post COVID-19 environment. The Dulles Airport Master Plan will define the future of the airport while ensuring that it continues to meet the evolving aeronautical needs of the Capital region and remains a driving economic force.
The master plan provides the framework needed to guide future airport growth, changes and construction based on future passenger needs and aviation demand, while considering potential environmental and socioeconomic issues.
In December 2020, the Airports Authority engaged Ricondo & Associates, Inc. (Ricondo) to develop its master plan. Ricondo is a full-service aviation consulting firm that provides facilities and operations planning, environmental planning, and financial planning to airports and the aviation industry.
Additional master plan third parties also include:
- AGD Associates, Inc.
- Airport Design Consultants, Inc.
- BNP Associates, Inc.
- Commonwealth Consultants
- Facility Engineering Associates
- Kimley-Horn & Associates, Inc.
- Illustrate My Design
- Kohnen & Starkey, Inc.
- Nova Consulting, Inc.
- Setty & Associates
The airport master plan process is guided by the FAA and ultimately results in the development of a master plan report which includes projections of future passenger and aviation activity, growth and preparation of an Airport Layout Plan (ALP).
The major analytical elements of IAD Master Plan include the following:
- Inventory of existing airport conditions
- Aviation activity forecasts
- Demand/capacity analysis and facility requirements
- Definition and evaluation of airport development alternatives
- Capital construction and implementation plan
- Financial feasibility analysis
- Environmental overview
- Sustainability strategy and airport recycling, reuse, and waste reduction plan
- Airport layout plan and development of an airport property map
The master plan also includes a public involvement process which provides updates on the study’s progress to the public, airport and community stakeholders, while allowing an opportunity for public and stakeholder input.
30 Months: December 2020 – May 2023
No, an airport master plan is not a requirement set forth by the FAA; however, the airport master plan study is considered the most prudent process for developing an ALP, which is a requirement of the FAA.
There is no legal requirement for how often master plans are conducted. The timing varies based on the needs of the airport and community. Typically, an airport operator will review its master Plan every 5-10 years to determine if an update is necessary. In practice, master plans are updated as needed to keep them relevant as a guide for development priorities.
Projects recommended in the master plan study generally are funded from a variety of sources including the FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, Virginia Department of Transportation grant funds, airport funds, passenger facility charges and general airport revenue bonds. Improvement projects at the Washington Dulles International Airport are not funded with taxpayer dollars.
Dulles is operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The Airports Authority was established by Congress through the District of Columbia Regional Airports Authority Act of 1985 and the Virginia Acts of Assembly of 1985. The Airports Authority oversees operation of both Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airports on behalf of the federal government, who owns these airports. Members of the Airports Authority’s Board of Directors are appointed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the President of the United States. In addition to operating the airports, the Airports Authority operated the Dulles Toll Road on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia and is in the final stages of constructing Metrorail’s extension of the Silver Line to Dulles International and beyond.
An aviation activity forecast is a projection of future levels of activity that are projected to occur at the airport for a predetermined period of time. For master planning purposes, the aviation activity forecasts typically include the number of airline passengers, cargo tonnage, based aircraft and aircraft operations. The aviation activity forecasts associated with the Dulles Airport Master Plan have been reviewed and approved by the FAA.
Forecasts of future aviation activity (sometimes called “demand forecasts”) are prepared based on a review of historical trends and using a combination of econometric modeling and professional judgment. Activity forecasts are important because the Airport Authority must be able to meet customer service needs in the future and therefore has to provide the right types and levels of facilities as appropriate. The master plan uses these forecasts to establish the timing and need for development of future facilities.
The Dulles International activity forecast is influenced by multiple factors. The primary driver of air travel demand is the economic performance of the local region and nation as a whole. The airport’s role within an airline’s route network is also an important consideration. Some airlines operate hub and spoke networks where service to and from Dulles International will be primarily focused on those hubs, while other airlines operate more point-to-point routes. As demand grows, airlines will expand service at IAD based upon how the airport fits within the greater network.
The FAA is responsible for the review and approval of the forecast of future activity. The agency guidance is intended to ensure that forecasts are realistic, based on reasonable planning assumptions and current data, and developed using an appropriate methodology. As part of the review process, forecasts are also compared to the FAA’s Terminal Area Forecast (TAF) for Dulles International to ensure the master plan study forecasts are consistent with the current TAF. Substantial differences between the forecast and the TAF must be resolved before proceeding with the master plan study.
An Airport Layout Plan (ALP) is a scaled, graphical presentation of the existing and future airport facilities, their location on the airport campus and pertinent clearance and dimensional information. The ALP is an output of the master plan study which contains information used by the FAA to program future funding assistance and to monitor the airport’s compliance with design standards and grant assurances. It also allows the FAA to anticipate budgetary and procedural needs, and to protect the airspace required for facility or aircraft approach procedure improvements.
To be eligible for federal funding, the ALP must be submitted to the FAA for review and approval. An up-to-date FAA-approved ALP that ensures the safety, utility, and efficiency of the airport is maintained. It also allows the airport to receive financial assistance under the terms of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that is administered under Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 and to be able to receive specific Passenger Facility Charge (PF) funding.
The FAA has only two official roles within the Airport Master Plan Study. The FAA reviews, and ultimately approves, both the aviation forecast and the ALP. In addition, the FAA is actively engaged throughout the master planning process and may provide comments on the master plan’s findings, recommendations and deliverables, and may offer technical assistance and support.
Airport planners conduct a facilities inventory to understand the existing capabilities of the airport. This includes the types of facilities that are available and where they are located. Typically, planners categorize the inventory into airside (airfield and airspace), terminal, landside (passenger terminals and access facilities), general aviation, cargo, and support facilities (utilities, maintenance, emergency response facilities, and FAA facilities). Operational characteristics of the airport are also evaluated during this phase.
The demand (or need) for future facilities can be determined based on the activity forecasts. This would include required airfield capacity and capability, terminal gates and passenger service facilities, roads, parking and rental car facilities, and other airport facilities. Planners compare the demand for future facilities with the available facilities (capacity, configuration, etc.) as documented during the inventory to determine the need and timing for facility expansions, modifications, or additions. This process is sometimes also referred to as a “gap analysis” and the results referred to as the “facility requirements.”
The Airports Authority will conduct 3 public workshops throughout the master planning process to present information and solicit comments. Comments may be submitted in writing via comment cards that will be distributed at each workshop. Alternatively, comments may be submitted at any time on the Comments Page.