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How We Made Newquay Airport Fit for Air Force One

Andy Clarke, Integrated Transport Director, Costain.

January 6, 2022

It went off without a hitch, but the logistics of gathering world leaders in Cornwall for the G7 Summit in June 2021 didn't just happen on its own. It took the expertise of Costain. Here's how we made Newquay Airport fit for Air Force One, and for the arrival of Joe Biden.

Just eight weeks before global heads of state were expected in the UK for the G7 summit, Costain’s combined consultancy and complex programme delivery expertise was called upon to ensure the smooth arrival of Air Force One and VVIP passenger US President Joe Biden at Cornwall’s Newquay Airport on 11th June 2021.

Partnering with Cornwall Council, the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office, and the Cabinet Office, Costain delivered the operational planning and infrastructure upgrades at the Airport to welcome the renowned United States Air Force aircraft and other world leaders to the three-day summit.

Delegations from the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Australia, the EU Commission and Council also flew into Newquay to debate global issues at the event which brought a wealth of investment to the county and has helped support the UK’s economic recovery.

Costain’s principal role was to supervise major improvement works on site, to initiate this the team undertook the civils design review providing assurance on the design and assessed risks to the programme.

To accelerate and assure the programme, the Costain team produced a holistic schedule linking all the infrastructure activities with the operational and event requirements such as logistics planning, managing the press, security checks and the accommodation of a 70ft rocket from Virgin Orbit. This integrated plan was vital to the success of the operation and brought the multiple delivery partners together.

Critical to the success of the operation was the close cooperation with the armed forces, the police, and the airport. The Costain team coordinated table-top scenario exercises to test the flight logistics plans and supported the security services with search areas and road closure plans.

Working alongside the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press team at Number 10, Costain helped identify the best locations for planes to park and unload with the world’s media watching.

Delivering during the COVID-19 pandemic created additional challenges with multiple agencies, businesses and government departments involved in the planning of the G7 arrivals and departures. Effective communication was critical in ensuring everyone was involved and briefed to enable a successful outcome.

Working collaboratively and using their connections and expertise the integrated team was able to source concrete during a national shortage, without which the construction for the new aircraft parking stands and rehabilitating disused taxiways would not have been completed. The team also thought creatively and alongside the pre-agreed runway construction, also helped conceptualise and bring to life additional temporary departure lounges, a new office and accommodation block and hydroseeded grass verges, all in a very short time frame.

'A representative from the G7 Presidency Taskforce at the Cabinet Office said, “The project management, advisory and delivery enabled us to focus on other venues in the run up to G7. Within two weeks of Costain joining the team everything was under control at the airport which gave us confidence that the job would get done.”

The Costain team fully aligned the project to the operational requirements of G7, which included ensuring quality and on time delivery of new drainage, the installation of new airfield lighting and borrowing 166 items of ground support equipment (GSE).

“The G7 was a tremendous success, and it was seamless, without incident. This would not have happened if it weren’t for Costain and the professionalism shown by the entire team,” said Nigel Blackler, infrastructure director at Cornwall Council.

© Andy Clarke, 2022

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