Project Case Study: Air space obstacles

February 2008 » Feature Articles
Design visualization tools change the face of airport engineering.
Reva Garmise
Design visualization tools change the face of airport engineering.

Analyze air space obstacles for airport approach and takeoff

Aviation consultant
Hugo Marom

Product application
Computer visualizations using RDV demonstrated that construction projects would not interfere with airport operations.

Every airport engineer knows that airport design does not begin and end with the design and construction of the airport itself. Adjacent residential or commercial structures, roads, bridges, and even temporary equipment such as cranes and gantries must all be considered to ensure obstacle-free airspace for approaches and takeoffs.

This was made abundantly clear in Israel when Aviation Consultant Hugo Marom was contracted by three project owners to solve problems related to three airports in Israel. Each pertained to new construction in the vicinity of an existing airport.

Eilat Airport is situated directly in the center of Eilat, a Red Sea resort city. It serves domestic flights from several points in Israel, as well as international flights carrying sun-seeking tourists to this virtually rain-free paradise. Hotels, shopping centers, and other tourism-related structures are all in close proximity to the airport. The question that brought Marom to Eilat arose when developers wanted to erect new hotels in the vicinity of the airport: Would the seven-story building impinge on protected air space for departing and approaching aircraft?

It’s not necessarily a permanent structure that threatens the air space. Consider the case of Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv. Here, a contractor had all the requisite approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority to construct a nine-story residential building. The building would not interfere with the flight path of departing and approaching aircraft, but what about the 58-meter-high construction crane that would be suspended 15 meters above the highest point of the building?

A similar situation arose during construction of a major, multi-lane highway encircling the northern suburbs of Haifa. The road was planned to provide uninterrupted access to these heavily populated towns—clearly a project of vital national interest. But there was a hitch. The highway included a multi-lane bridge over a river, which also happened to span the approach end of runway 34 of Haifa Airport. The road had already been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority and the highway bridge was within acceptable building limits near the end of the runway. However, the road contractor needed to set up a gantry to bring in prefabricated bridge sections. Would the gantry itself, which sits 15 meters higher than the actual point of construction, prove to be a risk to safe flight operations?

Back to the drawing board
To provide viable answers for these three projects, most engineering companies would submit maps, section drawings, computations, and imagery based on photographs with the proposed project elements superimposed—a complex, demanding undertaking. However, based on his long, successful career as a pilot, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, airport engineer, and aviation consultant, Marom knows that it is no longer necessary to invest in numerous photos and calculations of angles, heights, and other vital information to superimpose projected elements, as well as existing obstacles, on photograph reproductions. Marom’s companies originally used pilots to enact simulations. They also physically built models to demonstrate visually what the proposed structure, the airport, and other elements would look like and what would happen in different critical aviation situations.

Today, a far less complicated and much more accurate system is available to engineers and designers for this work. Rapid Design Visualization (RDV) is computer software that provides accurate simulations and solutions for engineering projects. According to Marom, RDV is the "most useful tool developed to improve safety and make decisions more foolproof than ever before. With this tool, it is easier to demonstrate the actions of a pilot in emergencies." Using the simulation, potential obstacles can be seen and marked for day and night flying.

RDV visualization software allows Aviation Consultant Hugo Marom to analyze the impact of construction on airport operations and safety.

Three solutions
To analyze the gantry adjacent to the Haifa airport, engineers used RDV to visualize all the relevant aspects of the construction process, as well as the protected airspace surfaces, and simulate worst-case scenarios for aircraft performance. A simulation showed the relevant aspects of the different points during takeoff of a multi-engine plane, enabling Marom to make recommendations that would ensure continued safe operations. His report approved the use of the gantry, with the recommendation that the Visual Approval Slope Indicator be changed from a 3-degree angle to a 3.9-degree angle. The effects were shown through simulation.

In the Sde Dov construction crane question, Marom was able to show the contractor that there was an equivalent level of safety with the crane and without it. Throughout the report presented to the Civil Aviation Authority, conclusions were backed up by the phrase, "as seen in the simulation."

"Using RDV simulations, I also made it clear to the Eilat developers that the two proposed hotels would not interfere with the airport’s air space," said Marom. In addition, Marom was able to re-use the simulations for other landowners and developers. They even proved useful for preliminary investigations of future projects. He also used the surveys, with simulations, to provide the Israel government with data to examine the feasibility of a proposed joint international venture in the region.

RDV is gradually becoming recognized as an asset to civil engineering companies worldwide. Road construction, railway planning, landfill, and housing projects have all benefited from the visualization. Today the software is proving itself valuable to airport designers as well. Simulation has become the cornerstone of any survey.

Reva Garmise is a freelance journalist and can be contacted at This article was contributed by RDV Systems.



Hugo Marom
Hugo Marom has been "hooked" on aviation since his childhood in England during World War II, one of 669 Czechoslovakian children transported out of Prague on the eve on the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.

"In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, we were in Bedford. One morning, I was in the street and all of a sudden there was an air raid warning and I saw a Heinkel—a German airplane," Marom said. "By that time, I could recognize the airplanes. It was flying overhead and I saw the bombs coming out of the Heinkel. A few seconds later, a Hurricane, a British airplane, came up behind it and I saw it firing at the Heinkel. That evening, I sat down and wrote a letter to my parents, saying that I’d decided to be either a pilot or an aeronautical engineer. My parents never read this letter, because they were in a Nazi concentration camp." (From the documentary film, "Nicholas Winton—The Power of Good" about the ’Kindertransport’ from Czechoslovakia.)

Marom fulfilled his dream of flying, becoming one of Israel Air Force’s ace pilots and a test pilot as well, for the military and for the Israel Aircraft Industries, where he was in charge of project development. He also went on to become an aeronautical engineer, airport planner, and consultant involved in aviation worldwide, as the industry developed. He established the world’s first aviation engineering design company. While most airport engineering companies relied on the expertise of professionals in non-aviation fields—architecture, electrical engineers, civil engineers—Marom’s companies were based on piloting and aviation experience.

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