Aviation in Mexico has outgrown its key airports, specially AICM, which is saturated since 2014. Until NAICM is finished, regional airport infrastructure to jump in and support the growth of Mexican aviation. The participants of the Airport and Heliport System Development panel at Mexico Aerospace Forum 2017, agreed that an increase in airport connectivity will enable aviation to grow and the aerospace industry production will be boosted.
One of the main needs of Mexico’s airport system was outlined by Francisco Bautista, Leading Partner of Aerospace Industry at EY. “Regional airports must grow and develop soon because having to go through AICM and always taking off late is a little hell.” On this, Ernesto Niembro, Subidirector of Operations of and Services of ASA, suggested convincing airlines to operate more regional jets around the country. According to him, “An increase in connectivity will mean airports will experience more operations and raise its growth expectations,” he says. Niembro looks at the inauguration of the civil terminal in the Ixtepec military zone, which was used to transport help during the earthqueakes in Oaxaca, as an example of the importance of connectivity. He also pointed out that Cancun, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Tijuana are key nodes of future development.
Out of the whole Mexican airport system, the Intercontinental Airport of Queretaro is the existing key airport to look at in terms of its impact. Not only is it the fastest growing airport in the entire system, but according to Carlos Aguilar, AIQ’s Airport Administrator, “The airport has boosted the development of Queretaro as its masterplan determined the need to attract a company such as Bombardier to its industrial installations.” He explains that one of the requirements of Bombardier to install in Queretaro was the creation of an academic institution where aeronautic professionals could study and be trained, which today is UNAQ. According to him, the airport still offers space for growth as over 800,000 people travel by land to fly from AICM while they could use AIQ instead.
About the development of heliports in Mexico, César Moreno, Director General of EnTEC, said “Heliports are no longer an adapted roof or simple fields for helicopters to land or take off.” He explains that projects are increasingly adapting to the needed regulation. He expects that as more people adopt heliports in their buildings, those in charge of this kind of infrastructure will increase their compliance with regulations without jeopardizing the plans of the developer. “Heliports today are more about regulation compliance than about what a planner wants,” meaning developers cannot improvise a helipad.
On the other hand, Yousefh Pineda, Director General of CRAMEX Aviation, underlines that there are plenty airfields and aerodromes in small operations with only few operations. In them, he explains, people move from one town to the other by airplane because there are no road options. According to him, “A similar model can be applied to urban areas through helicopter-based connectivity.” For Mexico City, Pineda believes transportation through public heliports plausible, but says it is necessary for investors to trust and apply models of proved success that have worked in London and other cities as it could prevent having to sit in traffic. “An aerial taxi with itineraries and helipads in places such as AICM, Santa Fe and Polanco could help reduce traffic.” He is expectant about drone-type aircraft as he sees heliports will need to evolve and receive and operate these autonomous vehicles.
On the future needs of the airport and heliport systems, Maricruz Hernández, Airport Director at DGAC, says the DGAC continues working in the strengthening of Mexico’s airport infrastructure. “If Mexico City lacks public heliports, that is more related with the costs of building a helipad and its feasibility rather than with how long it takes to acquire heliport permits.” She underlines that as the public authority, DGAC has to develop regulations. However, she points out that DGAC needs to sit with the aviation and aeronautic industry to meet its needs.