March 05 2013

Urban Airports in Buenos Aires: Are They Too Far? Too Close?

Like many global cities, Buenos Aires has more than one airport serving the transportation needs of its citizens. But the main international airport Ezeiza, located almost forty miles from the city center, lacks many of the so-called “ground services” – a term used in Airport Planning for defining all of the economic movement surrounding airport services not related directly to airplane, luggage and fuel handling. Such services include, but are not limited to: cargo terminals, amenities, office parks, restaurant and hotel concessions, VIP lounges, and parking lots.

Meanwhile, the national and regional airport Aeroparque, located in Downtown Buenos Aires, does have these ground services due to its proximity to the city. Unfortunately Aeroparque lacks many security measures, especially concerning landing and take-off precautions, and as a result has had some fatal accidents in the past.

Aerial photography of Aeroparque Airport - Provided by the Unión de Aviadores de Líneas Aéreas

So what can be done about this? Of the two main airports in Buenos Aires, each one lacks some essential item the other has an abundance of. Unfortunately for Buenos Aires, this zero-sum situation has worked in favor of other airports in the Southern Cone, such as Santiago, Chile and Sao Paolo, Brazil, in terms of traffic and growth, taking opportunities away from our fair city.

Looking for answers to this issue I remembered Mathis and Michael Güller’s bookFrom Airport to Airport City,” which states that cities and metropolitan areas have two choices. The areas can either center all activities and movement in only one airport, or distributing air traffic and ground services into two, three, or more airports serving different locations of the city and region.

But Buenos Aires already faces a partial inclination towards the first option by centering many activities in Ezeiza Airport. Buenos Aires has neglected the possibility of expanding Aeroparque’s capacity and increasing distances for reaching an airplane in the city.

Eliminating Aeroparque would be equal to hours lost for businessmen, medical emergencies and important cargo, making it easy to declare that retiring this airport is not an option.

Exit Gates at Aeroparque Airport - Provided by Aeropuertos Argentina 2000

Engineering plans are being made in Ezeiza to increase its ground services capacity, but I still believe the true plans are to be oriented towards increasing the capacity of the first airport. This airport is not directed by the width or length of its runways but by the quantity of take-offs and landings per day, and currently, against all odds, more than eight hundred daily operations are taking place in this airport.

Render for the Planned Ezeiza Airport Expansion

Environmental impact studies have been conducted, which show that the environmental damage if the airport were to be expanded on the river plate is minimal, so the solution is hereby given.

But in the end, if all the attention is given to the expansion of Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, would we not end up with the same centralized problem? Is there a more applicable solution to deal with this unbalance?

What model of airport planning do you think would work best for Buenos Aires?

Credits: Photos and data linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 at 9:44 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Engineering, Environmental Design, Luis Lozano-Paredes, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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