Myrtle Beach Int'l Boosts Capacity & Tourist Appeal With Terminal Enhancement Project

Rebecca Kanable
Published in: 


Project: Terminal Capacity Enhancement

Location: Myrtle Beach (SC) Int'l Airport

Owner: Horry Co.

Size of Expansion: 240,000 sq. ft.

New Size: 395,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $118 million

Funding: FAA grants; $16.5 million airport funds; $6.2 million TSA grant for baggage system; revenue from
sale of land; term finance certificates (backed bonds)

2012 Passenger Volume: 1.4 million

Key Elements: New inline baggage handling system; apron pavement reconstruction; 6 new gates; 8 new passenger boarding bridges; 3 additional ground-loading
positions; taxiway expansion and reconstruction; new rental car customer service facility; new restaurants; covered employee exit plaza; parking renovation/
expansion; new airport circulation & access roads

Benefits: More than twice as much interior space; improved traffic flow; increased airside capacity

Construction: May 2010 through March 2013

Terminal Planning/Programming: Michael Baker Jr. Inc.

Architecture: LS3P Associates with Giuliani Associates

Structural Engineering: Kyzer & Timmerman

Civil Engineering: Castles Engineering

Program Manager: MB Kahn Construction Co.

Geotechnical Engineering: S&ME, with special
inspections by Mead & Hunt

Site Survey: S&ME

Electrical: Melton Electric

Fire Protection/Life Safety: PASCO
(Palmetto Automatic Sprinkler Co.)

Elevator & Escalator: Schindler Elevator Corp.

Inline Baggage Screening System Mfg.: Glidepath

Baggage System Controls Architecture & Installation: Brock Solutions

Bag Claim Devices: Glidepath

Baggage System Electrical Installation:
Buckeye Electric

Baggage System Operation & Maintenance:

Passenger Boarding Bridges: JBT AeroTech

Gearmotor with integrated frequency inverter:

Structural Steel Fabrication & Erection: Steelfab

Seating: Vitra

Seating Provider: Herald Office Solutions

Interior Signage & Gate Displays: Tyson Sign Co.

Flight/Baggage Information Display Systems & Gate Counter Integration: AirIT

IT Systems: Air-Transport IT Services & Mercom

Common-Use Self-Service Kiosks: IER

Kiosk Printers: VidTroniX

Security Systems: Johnson Controls

Food Service Operator: MSE Branded Foods

Commissioning Services: Sebesta Blomberg

Rental Car Facility & Plaza Design: Timbes
Architectural Group with design architect inFORM Studio

With brightly colored beach chairs and sand-tone flooring, it's hard to miss the local bent of the recent expansion and renovation at South Carolina's Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR).

"When you get off the airplane, you feel like you are in Myrtle Beach," says Michael La Pier, who oversees Horry County's Department of Airports.

The terminal's variegated faade, finished with blue glass and copper metallic panels, alludes to South Carolina's Atlantic Coast and 60+ miles of beach known as the Grand Strand; its roof forms mimic ocean waves. Interior colors and finish materials further convey the Myrtle Beach vacation culture, and Nacho Hippo, a restaurant from the local Divine Dining Group, reinforces the airport's ties to the tourism-oriented area.

"When you arrive back at the airport for your departure, you don't feel like you've left," notes La Pier. "It's not a sterile terminal in that regard."

Creating a memorable, inviting space was especially important because MYR is a destination airport, not a hub, explains Philip Oliver, associate principal and senior designer for master architect LS3P

The $118 million program that delivered the beachy feel was prompted by a capacity crunch the airport was experiencing when planning began and further strains that were expected from anticipated passenger loads, explains La Pier. Each year, nearly 15 million people visit the Myrtle Beach area, and about 1 million of them pass through MYR, he elaborates.

"The community's goal ultimately is to increase its number of visitors to 20 million, and they're looking to the airport to be a contributing partner," says La Pier. "That means expanding our horizons as well as the brand of Myrtle Beach. We're going to try to bring airline service from places where it's not so easy to get to Myrtle Beach."

Currently, the farthest west MYR reaches is Dallas. "Much of our service is inside a 10-hour drive," La Pier reports, noting that adding markets west of the Mississippi River is of particular interest.

"A strong and aggressive airport development program has become fairly successful for us," he relates. Year-to-date passenger arrivals through June are up 12% to nearly 52,600 seats vs. 2012, and 715 arriving flights were added, for a 16% increase.

With tourism as the top generator of jobs and local economic activity, the development of air service is a community focus, La Pier notes. The recently completed Terminal Capacity Enhancement Program, as it's officially known, had the support of key local organizations including the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, specific golf and hotel associations, the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Horry County State Delegation, relates La Pier. 

The Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board, in fact, had to sign off on the project. In 2004, the board rejected plans for a new facility on the west side of the runway; six years later, however, it approved a conceptual design to expand the existing eastside location.

LS3P Associates, working in conjunction with Giuliani Associates, evolved the conceptual design into working designs to renovate the old concourse and repurpose other existing infrastructure. Both firms also provided construction administration services, with active work running from May 2010 through this March.

M.B. Kahn Construction Co. served as the program manager, overseeing about 22 trade contractors. Despite material delivery delays associated with Superstorm Sandy, crews completed work prior to the peak tourist season - a critical deadline for the airport, notes Kahn Executive Vice President Bill Cram.

Cram is similarly proud of the project's safety record: only one minor accident amid nearly 800,000 accident-free workhours.

Form & Function

MYR more than doubled the size of its two-story terminal, expanding from 155,000 square feet to 395,000 square feet. The increased footprint provides additional room for the lobby and waiting areas, and new concessions space.

Departure gates increased from seven to 13, and JBT AeroTech provided eight Jetway passenger boarding bridges, JetAire preconditioned air units, Jetpower ground power units and other ancillary airside products via a contract of more than $5 million. Three ground-loading positions were also added.

The former gate areas are now a concourse, and the airport's old baggage claim area is now a modernized federal inspection station facility.

Taxiway and apron pavement were reconstructed and expanded, and the parking lot, roadway circulation and access roads were renovated and expanded. New facilities include a covered exit plaza for employees and a rental car facility with a pedestrian canopy.

La Pier is especially proud of the user-friendly nature of the facility. And by "users," he means airlines and other airport tenants as well as passengers.

The terminal's "user-friendliness" begins in the parking lots, says La Pier. Because they're so close to the terminal, passengers don't have to ride shuttles, he explains. In addition, the new payment plaza was designed for the convenience of customers who are parking and drivers just dropping off passengers.

La Pier describes the terminal itself as comfortable, well lit and easy-to-use, with ample signs. "It's a fun building to navigate because there are lots of vistas," he relates, noting that passengers riding the escalators down to baggage claim are treated with views of a nearby golf course.

"We didn't realize how nice that frontage looked until we started the project," laughs La Pier.

Technology updates include check-in kiosks and an inline baggage handling system. MYR's shared-use approach to information technology benefits the airport, airlines and passengers, notes La Pier. Any airline can use any ticketing counter, customer service kiosk or gate.

"The entire IT backbone is managed and operated by the airport, so we can do some creative things that not only keep the costs for our airlines low, but increase passenger convenience," he explains.

The new backbone is built on AirIT's virtualization platform, and MYR uses the company's full suite of operational, passenger processing and business system tools, including the Airport Operational Database, Resource Management System, and PROPworks, a property and revenue management system. Airport's AirIT common-use self-service (CUSS) kiosks complement its AirIT Extended Airline System Environment (EASE) shared-use passenger processing system.
Just as the EASE platform allows airlines to extend their applications onto the airport's common-use systems environment, CUSS kiosks allow airlines to coexist on the same hardware.  Passport readers integrated into the check-in kiosks read e-passports, allow passengers to check in with or without bags, and print their own boarding passes.

"CUSS has been around for several years, and it's really grown in popularity in the last couple of years," says Jeff Shull, AirIT executive vice president.

MYR has 18 CUSS kiosks located in front of ticketing counters and in common areas. All are standalone, but most are grouped in pairs.

Shull details some specific advantages of the new shared-use technologies: "If MYR wants to assign a group of ticket counters to WestJet, which is starting service at MYR in May, we can load the kiosks with WestJet processing applications. If US Airways needs to use the ticket counters later, that's not a problem because US Airways software, too, was preloaded."
By maximizing the use of ticket counter and gate space, MYR was able to build a more compact facility - a strategy that lowers construction-related costs and decreases passenger walking distances, he notes.

In addition to core software solutions, AirIT implemented interfaces to support operation of the new baggage handling system, voice over Internet protocol, fuel access, and flight tracking and weather data interfaces.

The printers in the kiosks are VidTroniX MAPs that use a single printhead to print on two boarding pass stocks and one baggage tag stock in succession. Printing on three stocks allows the printer to take up less space than three separate printers. The airport now has 81 MAP printers, including those at the CUSS kiosks.

TSA provided a $6.2 million grant for the airport's new inline baggage handling system. "A bag can move from the ticket counter, through security and out to bag makeup in less than two minutes," La Pier reports.

Glidepath partnered with Brock Solutions to provide the controls architecture and installation, and with Buckeye Electric for the electrical installation of the new system. Currently, it includes three L3 9400 EDS machines and is capable of processing more than 1,500 bags per hour. A fourth machine can be added if the need arises. The outbound system includes two flat-plate makeup units, and the inbound system consists of four flat-plate claim carousels, all provided by Glidepath.

The overall system consists of more than 5,300 linear feet of conveyor and 302 motors. Given MYR's customer profile, designers included provisions for golf bags measuring up to 56 inches.

Vanderlande will operate and maintain the system.

Previously, each airline had its own baggage handling device and bags had to be checked by TSA and put on bag makeup carts independently. Now, the new automated system uses common bag belts to take bags for all airlines from behind the ticketing counters to a central location for screening and sorting - just like at a major hub airport.

La Pier is pleased as he reviews the convenience and capacity that has been added at MYR in the last few years: "We are excited for passengers visiting Myrtle Beach for the first time or hundredth time to see and experience the new Myrtle Beach International Airport ... When you get here, you're on vacation. And you don't stop being on vacation until you board your airplane and go back home."



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