The HOCHTIEF subsidiary Turner Construction Company is one of the biggest airport construction companies in the USA. Jay Fraser, General Manager of Turner’s Aviation group, explains why the sector is booming today as seldom before and why the focus is no longer on flying itself.

concepts Mr. Fraser, you’re the General Manager of one of the biggest airport construction companies in the USA. How often do you actually sit in a plane?

Jay Fraser I take about 140 flights per year and the same number of overnight stays in hotels. If I were a collector of frequent flyer miles, this would be the perfect job for me. But in fact, these trips are less glamorous than people might imagine. I like my job so much for very different reasons.

concepts What are they?

Fraser The great people I work with every day, and these fantastic projects. I’ve been working at Turner for more than thirty years, and within this company I’ve been involved with the implementation of many impressive construction projects. For the past three years, I’ve been responsible for the Aviation business, and I can tell you that these transformative projects can’t be compared with any other kind of building.

concepts What’s so special about airports?

Fraser These are always very significant projects in which many different people, companies, and institutions are involved. An airport is the economic engine of a city or a region. It’s the gateway through which people enter the country or the region. That’s why a large number of stakeholders want to participate in the decision-making: the municipality that owns the property, the operator, the airlines, the people responsible for security, and of course the many companies that sell merchandise or offer food and beverages at the airport. The large number of participants in itself makes communication one of the biggest challenges. At the same time, that’s what makes this business so exciting.

concepts In the USA in particular, it seems as though every small town already has its own airport. Where is there any room for growth? 

Fraser You’re right. Apart from rare prestige projects such as the major airport that was recently opened in Turkey, today there are seldom opportunities to build a completely new airport on a greenfield site, simply because there are so few open spaces available. Nonetheless, today there’s more investment than ever before in airport construction in the USA and in many other countries. Today the big projects are often extensive modernizations and expansions of existing airports. One good example is Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s seventh-largest airport, which the city is currently renovating and expanding at a cost of 14 billion US dollars. Almost 3 million U.S. dollars is being spent there every day in order to improve the airline customer experience. Among other things, we are managing the construction of a new terminal building with twelve new gates, in a joint venture with PCL. This alone is a 1.6 billion U.S. dollar project.

concepts So the focus is on expanding capacity in order to accommodate the growing number of airline customers?

Fraser The number of air passengers in the USA has been growing steadily by two to three percent annually. The tremendous growth of our sector has ultimately been driven by the fact that the airports want to not only grow bigger but also become better—more comfortable and attractive for travelers. Airports are changing from being anonymous travel hubs and are serving as flagships for their cities or regions. As a result, the L.A. project will include not only new gates, a new baggage handling system, bridges, traffic routes, and so on, but also an individually adapted range of shops and restaurants that reflect the unique features of the city of Los Angeles. Another big trend is smart airports. Integrated systems communicate with the traveler through visual symbols or via smartphones. They can inform travelers early on about delayed flights or gate changes, direct the flow of passengers, and simultaneously enhance security through better monitoring of what’s happening in the airport. At Turner, we’re spending a lot of energy on understanding these systems and always being at the cutting edge of new developments.

concepts L.A, San Diego, Orlando, Washington, Bangalore, Cam Ranh—Turner Construction is involved in many national an  international airport projects. What’s the main factor in such calls for tender? Is it the price?

Fraser In our business, qualification is the crucial factor. In the airport construction sector, we are dealing with complex measures that require lots of know-how. That’s why teams need people who have relevant experience. And as a rule, these projects are very significant for our clients and their partner stakeholders. It is critical that we execute our work safely and without interruption to airport operations and passenger movement. To achieve this, we have found that it is imperative to have staff on our team who have previous experience.

⇨ JAY FRASER is the General Manager of the Aviation group at Turner Construction Company. He is responsible for airport projects at this HOCHTIEF subsidiary. He has a degree in construction engineering and has worked for the company since 1986. He lives with his wife—who worked at Turner as a project engineer—and their four children in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.