An airport operations center (AOC) improves collaborative
decision making for airport operators — during their daily
work and in times of emergency or irregular operations — by
enabling command and control in a single location, whether
it’s a simple dispatch center or a comprehensive site that
coordinates airside and landside operations, building automation
management, security control and public service staff.
AOCs long have offered military, power generation and telecom
facilities advantages through efficiency and consolidated
command and control of critical operations. During the past
decade, airport managers have welcomed such benefits as well.
All operations centers share the same fundamental
technologies: robust and reliable voice, data and wireless
communications; ergonomic workstations for staff; and an
integrated display system. AOCs differ in their functions and
individual work stations, how they interact with the display
system, and how they interface with local police, emergency
responders, Transportation Safety Administration, and now
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Collaborative Decision
Making (CDM) infrastructure.
Irregular operations — spurred by an airfield incident, a
snowstorm or even an air show — can be managed with
additional features, such as the ability to function as a
command and control center. Such upgrades can include
workstations for additional personnel, a command mezzanine
and adjacent workroom space separating management or other
third parties from the operations center floor, and the ability to
quickly expand communications bandwidth.
AOCs also can be “hardened,” particularly in areas threatened
by potentially catastrophic earthquakes, wind or flooding.
Redundant power and communications can keep a center
online, even if the building is isolated. Because AOC work is
critical and stressful, amenities should make the center easy to
live in during stressful periods; consider adding support spaces,
such as a larger canteen area and sleeping rooms.
Some AOCs include a mobile command vehicle, one linked
to the main center by reliable communications and equipped
to duplicate AOC functions and place surveillance cameras
anywhere at the airport. Placing decision makers on site also
boosts situational awareness.
Each airport must decide how to deploy its AOC based on
management of real-time functions of the airport and business.
Start with a flow chart of the existing communications structure
— analyzing who communicates with whom and how, such
as by phone, email, written reports or other means. Then
consider how operations might be improved if managers could
interact face-to-face in the AOC, working from dedicated
workstations that could include one or more monitors plus
Once an AOC’s general requirements are determined, specific
operational details must be identified. A design charrette — a
one-to-three-day gathering of all AOC stakeholders — can
develop a Basis of Design manual, one to guide architects,
engineers, equipment suppliers and system integrators in
preparing construction documents and equipment performance
specifications. Often a skilled Revit CAD technician participates
in the charrette, capturing design details from the discussion
into schematic design drawings of the space. At the conclusion
of the charrette, the layout of the AOC can be reviewed and
Additional content can be identified and included at minimal
additional cost and effort if identified early in the process. In all
cases, AOC designers and contractors should be capable of
• Complete site planning, including for roadways, parking,
utilities and landscaping.
• Facility architecture, including structural hardening
• Design of redundant and backup utilities.
By Ron Crain
CALM CHAOS, FOSTER
EFFICIENCY WITH AN AIRPORT