The why and how of airport strategic planning

Posted in: Aviation

two men look at a set of plansAirport Strategic Planning: it sounds like a great idea, but it also sounds like a ton of work. But how much work is it really? And what are the payoffs? Throughout my career in aviation services, I’ve seen how the benefits of strategic planning are well worth the effort.


First off, undertaking the strategic planning process is a benefit in itself. Engaging stakeholders, from airport board members, to community representatives, to economic development officials, often pays great dividends, both upfront and in the long run. It’s always smart to get everyone involved in an airport’s success on the same page.

Many planning efforts today are focused around airport development. It’s easy to get caught up in all the separate airport master plans, business plans, and marketing plans. Strategic planning provides a fresh look and aligns individual efforts towards a common goal. Simply talking about your airport’s future can inspire employees and extract creative ideas that really differentiate you in the long run.


Strategic planning is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You know your airport best, so you know the best process to follow. Does it make sense to hire an outside facilitator or consultant, or is this an effort you are up to spearheading? Is your focus on tweaking a few long-standing objectives, or are you taking a larger step back and redefining your airport’s mission and vision for the future? The process itself can be a longer, comprehensive effort or a concise, half-day retreat. These are just a few aspects to consider at the outset of the process.

If this is new to you, don’t forget there are great resources that can help guide you through the process. Check with your peer airports to see if they have any valuable experience on what’s worked for them in the past. The Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 20 “Strategic Planning in the Airport Industry” is another great resource. It provides a comprehensive look at the entire process, from planning and organizing, to monitoring, evaluating, and modifying the plan.

If airport strategic planning is something that even remotely interests you, I highly encourage you to consider starting the effort today. It will make a difference in the long-term success of your airport!

Paul Strege, PE

About the Author

Paul Strege, P.E., is Mead & Hunt’s Midwest Aviation Services Leader. He oversees and supports the operations of aviation departments to serve client needs and achieve a sustainable and growing business.

Read more posts by Paul Strege, PE

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