The New Suvarnabhumi Airport

With one of the tallest Air Traffic Control (ATC) towers in the world and an impressive array of next generation, automated ATC Systems, augmented by the latest development in air safety equipment, the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand is well positioned to be the next “big thing” in airport design and architecture. Its massive capacity will served well when handling an expected boom in air travel during the next twenty years. Although the airport development had ran into trouble the past three to four years, its overall construction cost of nearly $ 3.9 billion was hotly contested by various political institutions at the time, and some factions still resent the price tag for the facility; and the airports’ runways had shown a propensity for “cracking” on a semi-regular bases, the airport still retains the potential to become the massive air hub its designers envisioned. Filled with green recreational areas and room to grow structurally, the Suvarnabhumi airport seem destined to achieve that goal.

As with most of China’s and Australian’s major airports, the French company Thales was selected to be the port’s chief soft-hardware structural integrated designer. The Company’s renowned TECOS fight data accessing and processing system is directly linked to the Suvarnabhumi ATC tower’s Advance Surface Movement Guidance and Control System or STREAMS giving the airport a coordinated stream line data display at all times. These two systems are integrated to the tower’s EUROCAT system located in the approach control room. This integration marks the first time the French company has been able to fully automated these three separated systems. With this level of integration, the airport’s AT Controllers are able to coordinate all incoming-outgoing traffic handoff to the facility tower without utilizing either the telephone set or radio transmissions.

As the aircraft commenced to depart its assigned gate area, information is instantly transmitted to several controller positions, all at the same time. On the ATC’s STREAMS monitors, which displays all the airport’s surface information, from runway activity, taxing maneuvers to gate departures and entries; controllers can easy see the aircraft’s surface profile without moving an inch. This does not mean that controllers can not talk to each other via telephone or radio. The TECOS system is able to eliminate the dreaded use of set paper strips mounted on display consoles because all ATCs can devise the data on a single or multiple display array. The Integration of all three systems is major step forward for Thales which, with 260 EUROCAT systems sold worldwide, was looking for an integration test-bed, data gathering type of facility, the Suvarnabhumi airport was just that. Beside these three main operational systems, Suvarnabhumi boost an advance Thales-supplied STAR 2000 S-Band Radar with a 60 to 90 nautical mile range, augmented by a RSM 970S monopulse secondary radar array with a 250 nautical mile operational range. Also installed at Suvarnabhumi is a TERMA Radar System Company’s surface detection array, known as multilateration use to monitor aircraft’s taxi operations.

Multilateration is an integrated system that relies on a transponder signature of interrogation for the aircraft’s positional tracking. The data collected from the transponders are received from the airport’s regular antenna configuration. The system works by measuring separates arrival times differences which, after processing, will give the aircraft’s precise position (five meter margin of error) on any of the airport’s ground facilities. Constants updates (about two per 1.2 seconds) maintains the information current. The advent of multilateration has made possible for airports to increase their overall safety level adjusting more smoothly to the ever increasing rate of air traveling. Multilateration is just the first giant step in the evolution of air traffic controlling. Next in line is the more robust and sensitive ATC system ever devised, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast System which still in its developing phase.

The airport posses two sixty meter wide paved runways, one 4000 meter long and the other 3700 with parallel taxiways (2000 meters of separation between them) entrance to accommodate simultaneous takeoff and landing aircraft. As of today, Bangkok’s airport is able to proses up to 75 flight operations an hour. Plans are in the works to add two additional main runways with its supplemented taxiways alignment which will boots the amount of flight processed by the ATC to above one hundred per hour. Today, the airport is capable of handling up to forty five million passengers annually. Most of them on a massive 563000 sq. meter terminal fitted with fifty one gates. This figure is expected to increase with the new renovations planned for 2012 which will make the facility capable of accommodate above one hundred passengers a year. Overall square area for the Suvarnabhumi airport is 32.4 miles. As for the structural decoration, The airport entrance and command facilities are liter with examples of Thai culture (paintings and sculptures).

Despite of all of these advance systems, the airport’s main attraction is still its imposing ATC tower. The main control room sits at a 132.2 meters elevation, just 0.3 meters short of the world record holder, the Kuala Lampur International Airport tower. If considered all of the world’s traffic control towers, both are surpassed only by the massive NAV Canada ACT Sea Plane tower in Vancouver which sits at 141 meters above the ground. The Suvarnabhumi’s tower had an impressive 360 degree panoramic view. The view angle and the tower’s altitude, gives the controller a maximum overview of the airport’s ground facilities. All of these systems and facilities will most likely made the Suvarnabhumi airport the main air hub to the south of Asia by the late 2010s.

– Raul Colon


More information:
wikipedia: Suvarnabhumi Airport Link
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand

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