The Future of Flight

It’s not easy playing catch-up, but that’s what Dominic Nessi has been doing since September 2007, when he became the executive director and CIO of the Information Technology Services Division of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

The last major construction done by LAWA, the city department that owns and operates Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as well as Ontario, Palmdale and Van Nuys airports, took place in 1984. And the IT infrastructure was as out of date as the physical facilities.

Clearly, something had to be done, and the catalyst, according to Nessi, was the new generation of very large aircraft with very large wingspans. “These planes just didn’t fit at most of our existing gates,” he explains.

To remedy that situation, LAWA began renovating LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal at the end of 2006, and the renovations are expected to be completed in 2010. In addition to physical renovations, the IT infrastructure is also being upgraded. “IT is part of everything that’s being done,” Nessi says. “The physical and technology upgrades have gone hand in hand right from the beginning.

“We’re now looking at expanding the terminal even further and building what we call Bradley West, which will have even bigger concourses and a larger core area. It will be partially brand-new and partially attached to the existing structure, and it will almost double our square footage.” That project is expected to be completed in 2013.

Bradley is a common-use terminal, so any airline can use the gates at any time. When the airline’s personnel arrive at the gate, they simply log in on LAWA’s common-use system to access the airport’s flight information display and gate departure screens, and then they use terminal emulation software to access their proprietary software to handle their reservations. Voice over IP is built into the network, so the phone at the gate is part of the common-use system.

“We provide the essential infrastructure, such as the new network we implemented at the Bradley terminal, as well as a new Ethernet network that we’re in the process of installing throughout LAX,” Nessi says. “We’re probably about 70 percent complete with that and hope to finish it this summer.”

In addition to the wired network, LAWA wants to significantly expand its wireless network. At this time, Wi-Fi technology is installed in the Bradley terminal, allowing passengers to access the Internet from the public areas.

“But wireless technology is not anywhere near as prevalent as we need it to be,” Nessi states. “We’re testing some equipment now, and if that test goes well, we would probably start the wireless project in midsummer, after the wired portion is complete.

“The airport is as dynamic an environment as you can find, and it requires a wireless network so that we can make changes in how we support security devices and how our managers meet their responsibilities for airport operations. We know we need a wireless network throughout LAX, but we want to get through the wired piece first.”