Aviation, Buildings and Places, Transportation

In this aviation blog series, we’re unveiling the artistry of innovative architecture, inspiring interiors and how we’re delivering exceptional guest experiences.

Navin Nitish is our aviation market sector lead in the United States. Navin has extensive knowledge in global aviation portfolio management and has worked on airports across New York and New Jersey to help deliver efficient operations, enhanced passenger experiences and optimized airport processes.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – your role and career journey   

I’ve always been fascinated with how goods and people move and the ability for cities to stay connected through transportation, whether that’s through air, land or sea, which led me to pursue Civil Engineering at Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) in Nagpur, India. During my master’s engineering program at Texas A&M University, I developed an interest in airports, transportation engineering and materials of construction, which led me to join AECOM. Here I honed my expertise in surface transportation and aviation engineering and broadened my scope to encompass all aspects of airports.

At AECOM, I’ve worked in multiple client and AECOM offices right across the United States including Texas, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey and New York where I’ve gained insights from various clients on regional challenges, work cultures and management. While working at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) I had the opportunity to work really closely with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) to learn airport functions and operational procedures, in conjunction with the requirements of various stakeholders and jurisdictional agencies while managing many projects as project manager.

I now have multiple roles in AECOM Global Aviation. I oversee the entire aviation portfolio across New York and New Jersey, handling planning, design, program management, and public-private partnerships. I also lead our global air cargo/hangar sector, alternate delivery and digital practice, fuelling my passion for transportation’s dynamic movement across the globe.

2. Talk to us about a project that has impacted or been a major highlight of your career. How is it solving the challenges and issues our clients and communities are facing today? 

A major highlight of my career at AECOM is my work on the expansion of American Airlines’ JFK Terminal 8, which became operational in December 2022. AECOM had designed and managed construction of this original terminal, initially designed to be the largest at JFK Airport. The size and complexity of the project provided me with the opportunity to step into a leadership role, establishing effective communication protocols and collaboration with a range of internal and external stakeholders such as American Airlines, Holt Construction and PANYNJ. 

When our client, American Airlines, faced a critical situation with their hangars at neighboring LaGuardia Airport, we were able to help them retain possession of their hangars by providing creative solutions for the rehabilitation of these historic hangars, with minimal capital investment. This helped to build the strength of our relationship with American Airlines and led to our team winning the procurement and working on the expansion of the JFK Terminal 8 to relocate British Airways from Terminal 7 and One-World Alliance partners to collocate within Terminal 8.

This project not only remained within budget and schedule but also showcased our diverse capabilities across architecture, building services, sustainability, civil, site, airside and utilities engineering as well as high-performance design. This marked a pivotal moment for AECOM in the aviation sector, setting the stage for subsequent major terminal redevelopments at JFK currently designed/constructed by AECOM worth around $7 billion and a career defining project for me.

3. In what ways have you collaborated with clients to align digital strategies with their vision for enhancing the passenger experience?

Addressing digital strategies and passenger experience require separate considerations.

At JFK Terminal One, a vital challenge was identifying subsurface conditions. We worked in collaboration with our global digital and enterprise capabilities (EC) teams to develop a 3D model with automated conflict detection for utilities underneath congested areas. We incorporated computational and parametric design by integrating principal design geometry from Autodesk AutoCAD with Revit to automate 3D modelling, with parametric components and leveraging Autodesk’s visual programming platform Dynamo. This workflow supports civil disciplines such as concrete and steel bridge structures and civil utilities – pipe networks. Our ability to develop and implement computation/parametric design for those utilities and later on for the elevated bridge structures, allowed AECOM to have a better product for our client, subsequently alleviating their apprehensions associated with these challenges, ensuring the project was delivered safely and on time positively impacted the passenger experience.

4. In your opinion, what emerging or future trends do you believe will significantly impact the aviation sector? How do you foresee these trends shaping the industry?

Globally, the aviation industry is undergoing a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels. Sustainable aviation fuel, hydrogen, nitrogen, and electrification are emerging as viable alternatives. As we continue to focus on complex infrastructure integration, AECOM has a crucial role to play in enabling this transition.

The other aspect is connectivity. Since airports can’t be built everywhere, Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) solutions are emerging as alternative modes of transport to move passengers by air. Globally, eVTOLs are bridging airport-deficient areas and AECOM is very much at the forefront of designing and developing the vertiport infrastructure needed for eVTOLs to really take off.

The third item is alternate delivery. In North America, we’re seeing a shift towards design-build contracts as well as public-private partnerships. This streamlines procurement and procurement processes – a trend we must embrace. The U.S. aviation sector must adapt to align with European, Australian and Asian practices, fostering efficient collaborations and partnerships with private sector, financiers, operators, contractors will help airport owners to ultimately get a better product for airport infrastructure.

Navin Nitish

Originally published Dec 19, 2023

Author: Navin Nitish

Navin Nitish is AECOM’s Aviation Market Sector Lead based in New York.