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IMS EMEA Newsletter Issue 2 - March 2010

 

Cairo Terminal 3 blazes technology trail in Egypt

 

Vol2-4Last summer Egypt's national airports operator took formal delivery of the new Terminal 3 at Cairo International.

Like so many of the facilities recently introduced across the Middle East and North Africa, it's on the grand scale – as large as its two predecessors combined, with a maximum annual capacity of 14 million passengers – and beautifully styled within and without. If anything, the technology that lies beneath the terminal's gleaming exterior is even more impressive. “We delivered, installed and integrated 14 different information-handling systems,” says Paul Hickox, ARINC's regional director for the Middle East. “They form one of the most diverse and wide-ranging capabilities we have ever supplied, anywhere in the world. It's a very significant project for ARINC as an airport master systems integrator."

The opening of Cairo T3 represented the culmination of a project that engaged ARINC for more than four years and called for all its skills in the management of complex airport integrations. “The customer issued the request for tenders in September 2005” recalls Hickox. “The requirement was for a complete suite of specialist airport systems, with provision for a future extension of the new capabilities to the existing Terminals 1 and 2.”

The completed bid was the work of four dedicated staff at the company's European facility in southern England, with a further two man-years of technical support from HQ in Annapolis, Maryland, and passenger processing specialists in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The effort and expense paid off and in mid-July 2006 the first ARINC staff arrived on-site to start executing the contract. It was then that the company's long experience as a master systems integrator began to show. “Our bid included a number of systems to be supplied by third parties,” explains Hickox. “In the months preceding contract award we talked to potential subcontractors, whittling them down to a maximum of two candidates per package so that we could move forward quickly once we had a signed deal. Then the first three or four months of the project were devoted to choosing the subcontractors and getting them started on design work.”

Starting with Egyptian lead engineer Rakan Khaled, the company built up a core team comprising nine on-site staff, plus 25 development engineers in Annapolis and Tulsa working on the ARINC-supplied systems. “In addition, our subcontractors, including network provider Advanced Computer Technology (ACT), had 20-25 people on site to deploy the infrastructure on to which the ARINC systems were layered,” says Hickox.

ARINC has another two major airport systems integration projects to its credit in the Middle East. Dubai's Terminal 3 opened in October 2008 and the new Doha International in Qatar is due to enter service later in 2011. However with 14 systems Cairo T3 was one of the more complex and diverse ARINC airport projects and that complexity was one of the two big challenges the ARINC team overcame on the road to delivery. The other was a change to the schedule as a result of the client's determination to avoid a repeat of the debacle that accompanied the opening of London Heathrow's Terminal 5 in 2008.

“It soon became clear that we wouldn't have access to the site for installation purposes for at least a year past the contracted date,” says Hickox. “Fortunately, we were able to communicate directly with the customer, helped by a very flat organisation, while the project management structure was simple and straightforward. All that allowed us to mitigate the effects of the delays as much as possible, and to secure the extra time we needed to complete the work.”

The schedule hiccup meant that the ARINC team's ability to improvise was fully tested. “ We originally negotiated a schedule allowing us to access multiple parts of the building at different times and in different sequences so that we could give the customer the quickest and smoothest opening possible,” says Hickox. “But if parts of the building were not available to us at the agreed time, as often happened, we were always able to reschedule the work to minimise the impact.”  

This flexible approach sometimes saw delicate equipment being installed in areas that were still under construction and then protected so that work could resume. “Doing that, rather than waiting for a completely sterile and clean environment, saved a lot of time,” Hickox recalls. “On occasion we would be told that we had access to an area for 24 hours and no longer. We would muster a team regardless of what it said on the schedule and get the equipment in before the room was sealed off again for further construction work.”

The complexity of the job manifested itself in several ways, starting with the multinational nature of the subcontractors. “We were dealing with a lot of companies that did not necessarily have representation on site,” says lead engineer Khaled. “So we would schedule several of the vendors to be in the country at the same time for formal integration workshops, following up with regular conference calls.”

Adds Hickox: “It was our responsibility as master systems integrator to be the ringmaster who made all that happen. It was down to us to organise not only our own subcontractors but also those who had been engaged by other main contractors such as the construction provider.”

Then there was the paperwork. A project on the scale of Cairo T3 can have something like 40,000 documents associated with it – drawings, approvals for vendors, approvals for the design of interfaces. “There's a very substantial paperwork load over the first two to three years of an airport integration project,” comments Hickox. “It's only in the last six to eight months that you start physically delivering equipment to the site. Most of the effort goes into the design and recording it to describe for future generations exactly what we built and how we built it.”

The systems in Terminal 3 have worked seamlessly since last year's opening day, earning some very public praise from General Hassan Rashid, chairman of Cairo Airport Company, and General Ibrahim Manna, head of the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation.

But first Rakan Khaled and the rest of ARINC's on-site team had to pass one more test of their ability to react fast and flexibly. “The customer decided to invite Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to a ceremonial opening at the end of 2008 and gave us just three weeks to get ready,” says Khaled. “That's how long we had to bring up everything that would be visible to a passenger. We worked round the clock to ensure that everything performed as advertised when the president carried out the first check-in and viewed other systems like the information kiosks.”

The Cairo T3 project brought several leading-edge airport technologies to Egypt for the first time – common-use selfservice (CUSS), passenger information kiosks, biometric gates, automated ramp management. It was also a first for ARINC, making its debut in Egypt as a master systems integrator. “We were new to the country and the culture,” says Hickox. “Against that background we had to work with other contractors of several different nationalities, including a Turkish main contractor and Dutch designers.”

That experience could yield further dividends soon, Hickox believes. “The customer is expected to issue a request for tenders for a refurbishment of Terminal 2 and is talking to us about how we might be involved,” he says. “We think we are in a strong position to win the job of extending the T3 systems in the most cost-effective way.”

 

 

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