Air Transport World

A simple objective: Amsterdam Schiphol's goal is not to be the world's biggest - merely the best. (Amsterdam Schiphol Airport)(includes related articles on airport construction)

Amsterdam--Already the fourth-busiest airport hub in Europe, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has reached the mid-point of its 15-year (1989-2003) expansion program designed to make it Europe's premier "mainport"--a "major hub of international traffic and transport flows, incorporating air, road and rail."

Turning Schiphol into a premier "mainport" was mandated by the Netherlands government, which recognized that with liberalization of the European aviation market, "air traffic in Europe is expected ultimately to concentrate on between four and six major airports--the hubs or `mainports'--which will be the primary junctions of intercontinental and European traffic both by air and by road and rail."

With exports accounting for roughly 60% of the Netherlands' gross national product and transport and distribution accounting for nearly 10%, the government decreed that Schiphol must establish itself as one of those major hubs.

The 4.4 billion-guilder ($2.75 billion) expansion program is designed to give the airport an annual capacity of 35 million passengers by its completion in 2003. The airport passed the 25 million point last year and is showing roughly a 7% annual growth. It also recorded just under 1 million tonnes of cargo in 1995, up 16.6% over 1994.

However, in issuing its growth mandate, the government also mandated that expansion of the airport "go hand in hand with improvements in the living environment near the airport," placing an environmental-based limit of 44 million passengers and 3.3 million tonnes of cargo on any future growth.

It also will establish noise-limitation zones around the airport later this year. Further, the government said the airport had to reduce aircraft noise, third-party risk and air pollution from 1990 levels.

"Schiphol has no ambitions to be Europe's largest 'mainport' in the year 2015--but it does aim to be the best," said the government's white paper on Schiphol.

The 44 million passenger/3.3 million tonnes of cargo limitation figures were established last November. Now, the government is debating the consequences of reaching those limits heavily. Points of discussion include whether the Netherlands should exceed that limit, what kind of traffic it needs to concentrate on, whether it should spread the various types of traffic--transfer, regional, charter, etc.--to other airports throughout the country. whether it should develop a cooperative program with other European airports and/or whether it should build a second major international airport.

The effort to increase traffic and reduce the environmental impact received a major boost last year when the government approved construction of a fifth runway at the airport. A parallel 19/01 runway was designed to absorb about 35% of the airport's traffic while significantly reducing noise levels by putting arrival and departure patterns over very low-density population areas. The majority of the remaining traffic then will be able to operate off the Kaag runway (06/24), which also has flight paths over areas with relatively small populations.

The 95th runway is expected to be operational by 2003.

The government also instituted a program last November requiring Stage II (or Chapter II) aircraft to pay a "noise surcharge." On April 1, that surcharge increased 50%. However, airlines replacing Stage II aircraft will receive a refund based on the reduction in number of flights by the noisier aircraft. The airport last April also placed a night curfew on Stage II aircraft departures and will extend the curfew to landings this November.

As a result, 85% of the traffic at Schiphol now meets Stage III standards. …

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