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Thought Leadership
Aviation
Austin Dallas Houston Oklahoma City Tulsa

The Aviation Boom

Over the next three to seven years, every major airport in Texas and parts of Oklahoma will be undergoing some level of a capital improvement program. This will be billions of dollars’ worth of construction – a stark contrast to two years ago when airport programs were put on hold due to the pandemic.

Market Drivers

It’s a unique situation we are seeing in this part of the United States, and the nuances that created this amount of aviation construction include population growth, connectivity, and airport relationships with its city and local economy.

Population Growth

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is a prime example of airport capacity in relation to population growth. In May of 2023, Austin reached the top 10 most populous cities by the U.S. Census Bureau, which included Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. In 2022, AUS’ enplanements, or passengers that boarded at the airport, was 10.5 million. This is an increase of 55% compared to 2021.

Just recently at the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA)-SW Regional Conference AUS leaders stated that the airport’s 2040 master plan will realistically hit in 2030. Right now, the airport is operating outside of its capacity.

Connectivity

Where AUS is growing its capacity and role in aviation on a local and national level, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been operating on a national and international level for decades. For the second year in a row, DFW was ranked the second busiest airport in the world, with 73+ million passengers in 2022.

Its need for construction isn’t tied to the growth of its surrounding cities – at least not how it was in its early years. Rather, the demand comes from being a major hub for airlines and connectivity to other airports. About 60% of its traffic connects to another flight. Modernization, efficiency, and traveler experience are all goals for its expansion and continued reputation in the aviation market.

Capacity

The explosion of aviation work in Texas and parts of Oklahoma does include a middle ground, where airports are naturally growing with their general areas and in response to future capacity needs. This includes San Antonio International Airport and Tulsa International Airport. These individual programs are in the billions of dollars and include large, complex work that will be managed and constructed over several years.

In comparison to AUS enplanements, Tulsa and San Antonio, have a more moderate trend – although still indicating increase in travel and passenger numbers for the future.

Cargo Services

Beyond travel, airports are building capacity for additional cargo services. This focus happened during the pandemic when demand for fast delivery of essential and non-essential goods exploded.

That level of demand has come down with recent global impacts, fuel prices, supply chain bottlenecks, and the ease of port congestion. But there still exists a need for goods to be delivered securely, fast, and in large quantities.

Boeing released its report on air cargo through 2040 and projects that North America will average a 4.3% increase over the next decade. This will be led by e-commerce and a rise in domestic manufacturing.

This is the type of work AUS is invested in, where air cargo totaled more than 310+ million pounds in 2022, up almost 30 percent from 2021. In the last year, JE Dunn completed excavation and foundational work for AUS’ new 99,000 square foot cargo warehouse. This was a fast-track design and construction effort to get the facility up and running as soon as possible.

This aviation boom will lead to incredible opportunities for firms in the AEC industry but will bring impacts to the following:

  • Trade partner and overall skilled worker capacity
  • Opportunities for Minority, Women, Small, and Disadvantaged firms that meet their current capabilities while helping them build work capacity and experience
  • Competition for workforce, labor, and retention with other large projects and multi-year projects in the the data center, manufacturing, government and municipal markets

This is top of mind for JE Dunn as we look to purse work in the aviation sector. Aviation will continues to be a leading market for our South Central region and it’s our responsibility to deliver projects that are successful, provide an excellent experience, and support the growth of our industry for the future.

Marshall Frey
Project Director

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