Resiliency planning is often defined as assessing an airport’s risk for an extreme weather event and/or a catastrophic shift from current conditions due to climate change, and immediately preparing a plan to meet the demands of your passengers, tenants, and community at large in the face of an emergency. Although climate change and extreme weather are essential elements to consider in planning, they are not the only states of emergency that an airport could face. Resiliency planning is commonly thought of as an extension to sustainability planning, which strives to achieve a balance of environmental, operational, financial, and social responsibility goals. While sustainability planning is part of resiliency planning, the two are not interchangeable. When these common limits on resiliency planning are removed and the goal is expanded to increasing efficiency of all aspects of airport operations, it becomes clear just how comprehensive airport resiliency planning can be.
A resilient system can rebound quickly from shock or stress, particularly during unforeseen situations and conditions. Aviation has experienced immediate and significant effects from every major worldwide incident, pandemic, or recession including just a few major examples:
- Pilot strikes
- Air traffic control (ATC) strikes
- Fuel crises
- Energy crises
- Events and aftermath of September 11, 2001
- The Great Recession
- COVID-19 and other medical crises
The aviation industry will face new shocks in the future, both known and unknown. However, as history shows, once the event passes, the system will recover.
As airports plan for inevitable system recovery and the return of growth, priorities should include the establishment of a resiliency plan that unites all airport plans and operational programs, and ultimately reduces vulnerability to future system shocks. A resilient airport is one that can provide reassurance to stakeholders and passengers that it is prepared for rapid and dynamic change.