Vancouver Int'l Installs Ground Run-up Enclosure to Cut Maintenance Noise in Half

Kimberly Kaiser
Published in: 

With round-the-clock operations and an urban location, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has long been attuned to noise issues. In December, Vancouver Airport Authority finished a $12 million project to help keep peace with YVR's neighbors. A new ground run-up enclosure (GRE) - Canada's first - is expected to cut the acoustic impact of ground run-ups in half. The structure will also serve as a deicing station - another industry first.

Anne Murray, vice president of community and environmental affairs for Vancouver Airport Authority, explains the rationale for the GRE project: "We're a 24-hour airport, and that's really important in terms of supporting the economy of this community. While we have a comprehensive noise management plan to balance air travel with urban living, it's impossible to eliminate the sound of aircraft landing and taking off."

It is possible, however, to reduce the noise produced by engine run-ups performed during regular maintenance. And that's exactly what the airport did.

"Engine run-ups are particularly bothersome to the community because they are done at night, often at high power and often for extended periods of time," explains Murray. "We knew this was a concern for the community and we looked at what sorts of things we could do to address that."

Analysis showed that large jets weren't causing the most noise complaints; smaller propeller aircraft were the bigger culprits. "That's a lot easier to build a structure for," she relates.

Although the airport's new GRE is designed to handle large 757 jet aircraft, its primary users will be propeller aircraft such as Dash-8s, Beech 1900s, Saab 340s, Otters and Metroliners - equipment operated by fixed-based operators, charter outfits and carriers offering scheduled service to small communities in British Columbia, Murray explains.

The three-sided, open-top structure will be used primarily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when aircraft are undergoing maintenance rather than flying.


Project: Ground Run-up Enclosure

Location: Vancouver Int'l Airport

Size: 67 meters wide; 80 meters deep

Cost: $12 million (Canadian)

Construction: April to Dec. 2011

Engineering Consultant:
URS Corporation

GRE Supplier:
Blast Deflectors

Primary Objective: Cut engine run-up noise in half

Additional Benefit: Provide deicing location for smaller aircraft on south side of airport

The airport authority selected Blast Deflectors to supply the GRE and URS Corp. to provide engineering support for the project. URS had previously worked on GRE location and site studies at Boeing Field in Seattle, Calgary International in Alberta and Tampa International. Blast Deflectors has built 20+ GREs worldwide.

Planning & Design

Due to the size of the facility and the need for easy access by aircraft, YVR had eight potential locations to consider, relates Murray. A site adjacent to the airport's South Terminal was chosen for its proximity to south side airline operations and advantageous control tower sightlines, prevailing winds, and acoustic, economic and environmental benefits.

After the site was selected, URS created a computerized model of the future structure. Using the simulated GRE, engineers ran noise software to help determine the optimum place on the site to place the structure and forecasted how effective it would be reducing noise in the surrounding community, explains Shammi S. Ratti, P.E., senior project manager for URS. The design that resulted is a steel structure engineered to reduce run-up noise by 50%, or approximately 15 decibels.  

"URS prepared a series of highly detailed renderings that showed exactly what the completed facility would look like at the proposed location," recalls Don Bergin, director of technical sales for Blast Deflectors. "They also produced an animated tour of the facility that turned out to be a great tool for community outreach."

YVR eventually posted the video on YouTube.

One side of the facility is slightly taller than the other to maximize its acoustic benefits while keeping the project under budget, explains Bergin. At its high point, the structure is about as tall as a five-story building. Acoustic panels inside absorb sound as well as direct it up and out so run-up noise dissipates before reaching the nearby community. The exterior walls feature steel cladding, which not only improves the acoustic performance of the GRE, but enhances the aesthetics of the facility as well, he adds.

"One very unique feature of the facility is a sign mounted on the aesthetic cladding," notes Bergin. "It not only has the logo of the airport, but also a clear explanation of the purpose of the facility, which is really great for community relations."

Working with the Community

Since the goal of the GRE project was to reduce the impact noise has on YVR's neighbors, the airport authority worked closely with the community to educate it about the project and how it would benefit residents. The airport's noise management committee, which includes local citizens, municipal government staff, pilots, air traffic control personnel and government officials, was involved in the project from the earliest stages, including site selection.

"The community is very supportive," Murray notes. "It's very well-received."

A launch event helped kick off the project on a positive note. YVR used the occasion to show media and community members where the GRE would be built and explain what the project would accomplish. Because the structure is in a secure area of the airport, YVR created a viewing platform so guests could view it, Murray notes. After the project began, YVR provided construction updates on its website and through electronic newsletters and photos posted to Twitter.

Beyond the substantial noise reduction the GRE provides, Murray recognizes its public relations value: "I think the community appreciates that we take their concerns seriously, and they see that we're working on it, that we're investing in addressing a community concern."

Dual-Purpose Design

In addition to reducing engine run-up noise, an in-ground glycol collection system allows the airport's GRE to double as a de-icing facility - another notable first, says Bergin.

"We have built a GRE that had an aircraft wash rack, another with a restroom and a couple with GPU pits," he relates. "But never before have we been involved in a project with a glycol capture unit."

The dual-purpose design, he notes, is an excellent example of maximizing a development project to benefit both the community and airport operations.

Previously, the airport had a primary deicing facility for its major carriers and main operations, but it didn't have anything on the south side for smaller propeller planes. "The small air carriers either wouldn't operate in the snow or they would have a glycol recovery vehicle that would come in after," Murray explains. "The GRE will now provide a centralized location for deicing at the south side of the airport."

The GRE also provides provide fuel and time efficiencies and reduces greenhouse gas emissions for south-side operators, because they no longer need to taxi to the designated run-up area at the west end of Sea Island.

Although a glycol capture unit is an unusual feature for a GRE, it was included in YVR's plans from the get-go, recalls Ratti. As such, engineers included a separate capture system and glycol storage tank in the original designs.

Between the good will the new GRE has built with airport neighbors and the innovative shared use of infrastructure it provides by doubling as a deicing facility, Murray notes that YVR is "very happy" with the project. "It's good for business and good for our operators; good for the community and good for the environment," she concludes. "It's rare to have such a significant noise reduction, and we're really pleased."

Ground Run-up Enclosure Becomes a Marketing Advantage at Spirit of St. Louis Airport

Spirit of St. Louis Airport is a large general aviation reliever situated in an upscale suburban community just west of St. Louis, and being a good neighbor is high on its list of priorities. In the spirit of neighborly consideration, it completed a $3.2 million ground run-up enclosure (GRE) in November 2011 to help decrease its noise impact on the surrounding community. As a result, the airport has a new marketing hook.  


For years, the airport limited engine run-ups to the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but they still caused a lot of noise, acknowledges airport director John Bales. And although they were previously performed on a remote taxiway for safety, the location didn't do much to reduce the noise.

"We received a fair amount of noise complaints from engine run-ups because it's up and it's down and it's longer duration," Bales explains. The airport's technical advisory committee (made up of airport users and a citizens' advisory committee) flagged run-ups as a hot topic and a Part 150 noise study in 2005 recommended a GRE as one remedy.

The six-month project cost $3.2 million and was funded by a 95% federal/5% local grant from the FAA. The airport worked with Parsons Brinckerhoff and Blast Deflectors to design and build the structure. The facility will be used for a large variety of general aviation aircraft, ranging from small twin-engine piston aircraft up to larger MD80s and B737s, explains Don Bergin, director of technical sales for Blast Deflectors.

"This is only the second GRE at a general aviation airport in North America, which is really a testament to the airport's commitment to the local community as well as current and prospective tenants," reflects Bergin. "And the fact that this facility has all the aerodynamic and acoustic features of larger GREs we have built at international airports confirms the airport's drive to provide world-class amenities."

The facility includes upgraded siding to enhance the appearance of the structure. This was an important requirement for the airport, due to its high aesthetic standards for airfield structures, Bergin explains. From a practical standpoint, the GRE was designed to reduce run-up noise by approximately 15 decibels.

In selecting the site, the project team ruled out locations that would typically encounter tail winds or those that would adversely affect current tenants or future development, recalls construction manager Jennifer Kuchinski, P.E., of Parsons Brinckerhoff. Accessibility was also key, so fixed-base operators and other tenants wouldn't have to cross runways or incur significant taxi or tug time to use the sound-dampening structure.

Once complete, staff leveraged the new GRE as a competitive feature for the airport - a characteristic move considering Spirit of St. Louis also has a 200-acre FAA-approved golf course that doubles as a storm water detention system.

The GRE's extra "bells and whistles" such as wind speed indicators and other features make the facility easier for operators to use and could help attract new tenants, notes Kuchinski.

Bales similarly sees the GRE's advantages as twofold: "It greatly benefits the community because they won't be affected by engine run-ups. It's also a great benefit for the airport operators because they can do engine tests 24 hours a day ... The maintenance operators were actually more excited than I thought they'd be."


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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