ATLNext Award-Winning South De-Icing Complex Project

What does it take to help consistently improve the “World’s Busiest Airport?” Russell’s most recent award-winning South De-icing Complex Ramp and Support Project is an example.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (HJAIA) was recently named—again—the busiest airport in the world, according to the Airports Council International World. Nearly 94 million passengers passed through HJAIA in 2022, an increase of 23.8% over 2021. Indeed, that’s a lot, so what does it take to keep up with the pace over time?

“Continuous reinvestment in maintaining and improving facilities,” according to Curtis Wilson, Vice President of Transportation & Infrastructure for H. J. Russell & Company (Russell). “The City of Atlanta recognizes the airport as a major economic engine for the region and has committed to ensuring that continues for years to come. Every day, the hard work and dedication of the staff is shown through their excellence in conceptualizing, strategizing, and executing plans and projects that improve the airport experience. The collaboration with our partners, the City, and other officials is cohesive, and we take seriously our commitment to providing a safe and pleasant experience for passengers.”

For several years, Russell has serviced HJAIA’s project management initiatives under its $6-billion capital improvement and $11 billion ATLNext development programs, respectively. Recently, the HJAIA’s South De-icing Complex Ramp and Support Project, led by Russell’s Senior Project Manager Alison Bartlett, won Airport Business’ 2023 Project of the Year from Aviation Pros. Including Russell, the project was a collaboration of the HJAIA ATLNext team, Department of Aviation, Airport Operations along with Archer Western/Lewis Contracting.

This awarded success is unprecedented and speaks volumes to the service delivery, standards, and values of the Russell Way. Valued at $147M, this South De-icing Complex is potentially the largest facility of its kind in the United States. This project was created to provide a new de-icing facility on the south side of the airfield and capable of accommodating a variety of aircraft sizes and quantities. Some of the dynamic features include: 14,000-square-foot operations building, five bays for fueling de-icing trucks with glycol, two truck maintenance bays and roughly 200,000 square yards of airfield pavement. This is also a 43-acre de-icing ramp with three new access points for the cargo facility. The building services 10 Group III and five Group V airplanes or a mixture of both. The designs were solidified in December 2019 and construction was initiated in 2021.

“Even though it does not snow a whole lot in Atlanta, whenever it does snow and full-on de-icing is required, it is always very challenging because we previously did not have enough de-icing pads to accommodate the demand,” said Tom Nissalke, HJAIA Assistant General Manager/Planning and Development. “This new facility will provide adequate resources for our airline partners to conduct de-icing operations, and make sure the national airspace is not impacted when severe weather hits Atlanta.”

Of course, one can presume that a project of this magnitude was met with some challenges, and it most certainly was; however, Alison and the team resolved them head on. “South De-icing was a challenging project from award of bid,” she said. “The first of two major challenges occurred prior to NTP (Notice to Proceed). The first challenge identified was issues with the trench drain design. As a result, a new design was issued for the trench drain system to manage the water flow for a 10-year rainfall peak. A new drainage structure system was designed, then manufactured prior to starting the project. This added significant time to the project’s start date. The second challenge was an area where we encountered multiple unknown utilities, which happen to be in the center of the ramp work. These unknown utilities included a FAA duct bank, high-power voltage line, water line and an AT&T fiber line. We rephased the work and worked around the problem area until solutions were found. The goal of South De-icing was to be able to de-ice planes during the de-icing season of 2023. We were successful in performing this objective.”

In addition, HJAIA General Manager Balram “B” Bheodari shared, “This award is one more validation of the work we’re doing in our capital improvement program. The South De-icing Project will continue to ensure ATL maintains and expands its efficiency, even in the face of extreme winter weather.”