Tucson International Airport Case Study


The Tucson International Airport (TIA) is operated as a joint civil-military, which is owned by the Tucson City and Pima County of Arizona (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). It is ranked second regarding operations and busy schedules within Arizona, while the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is ranked as number one. The primary airport clients are the passengers, especially over the period covering 2011 to 2015 (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). The Tucson Airport Authority extended a long-term lease program for the management and operations of the airport to Tucson International. Besides, the TIA hosts the Tucson Air National Guard base hosting the FW (Fighter Wing) and the AETC (Air Education and Training Command). As a regional airport, the TIA serves Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines, among others (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). Besides serving the interest of the region, the nations, and Tucson city, the airport serves as an important link between Arizona citizens and the outside world.

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The economic impact of the operations of the Tucson International airport in the region is quite huge. For instance, the current estimation of the passengers that the airport serves is approximately 3.6 million people annually (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). Therefore, the economic effect of the airport in the region is estimated to be about $3.2 billion. Other benefits directly associated with the airport are together with massive job creation in the region and the country. Besides, the airport serves the customers round the clock because it operates in a 24-hour system, ensuring that all customers’ traveling needs are met in time (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015).

Tucson International Airport serves as the front door to Tucson, providing a vital link in the economy of the City of Tucson, the region, and the nation. Besides, the proper management of the airport raises the company’s competitive edge in the industry (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview. 2015). This paper presents a report on the TIA focusing on the airport environment, the operations, as well as the finances of the airport. The rationale for choosing the airport for the analysis is that it is among the best-performing airports in Arizona and serves a great purpose in the region.

TIA Environment

Water and Marshy Areas

The airport is geographically located in the North of the Tucson Basin within Pima County in Arizona. The airport extends to the southern side of Tucson City and covers an approximated land area of ten square miles (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). In the years before 1981, the areas around the TIA were served by underground water wells. In fact, approximately 47,000 persons got drinking water from the underground at the airport site. As such, the Tucson International Airport is located in a well-watered area, as confirmed by the exploitation of the underground water sources (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). In addition, the area is also served by a permanent river that passes in the southern parts of the airport. 

The TIA environment has been of focus in many instances due to increased environmental degradation and general pollution. The environment within the airport has accommodated various facilities ever since the inception of its operations in 1942 (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). For instance, the airport has hosted electronics and aircraft facilities that are known for discharging waste liquids and oils directly into the soil. Besides, the fire drill training areas left many unlined pits and landfills that have been receiving waste from different sources. Therefore, the environment around the airport has had to face the reality of increased contamination, especially for the groundwater and the soil (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). Since 1942, the use of metals and industrial disposal of waste metals and chlorinated water has been causing much harm to the larger water masses. Other contributors to the pollution in the airport were the worn-out parts of the airplanes because the greasing and repairs of the plane were done within premises built at the airport (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). Currently, the environment suffers pollution and degradation from surface operations, metal plating, surface coating industries, and missile assembly plants within the environment (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015).

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Having the contamination of underground waters in the region discovered as early as in the 1950s, the efforts towards eradicating improper waste disposal enabled the airport authorities to control the challenge. In fact, by the 1970s, the levels and rates of contamination had subsided greatly (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). High levels of chromium were detected in the water sources within the area and in the Tucson city municipal water reservoirs in the 1950s. Besides, other south city water sources were equally affected by the poor and rampant disposal by the TIAA. The immediate responses were the shutting down of public water places as well as privately owned water wells to ensure the safety of the nearby residents (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview. 2015). As such, the regions around the airport have suffered the effects of increased contamination of the marshy lands, watersheds, and soil. However, the airport has been running effective programs, which are meant to improve the quality of the environment, such as waste management programs, wastewater management systems, as well as programs for creating community awareness on the effects of environmental pollution (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015).


Another environmental challenge that the Tucson International Airport has had to face is the challenge of noise pollution. The Tucson community has endured the effects of noise pollution from the aircraft as they land or take off. However, the company has had a commitment to reducing noise pollution (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). In fact, since the 1990s, the airport has embraced effective measures to abate the noise levels in the surroundings for the sake of the communities. The primary mechanisms embraced in overcoming noise pollution from the airport include runway displacement, the preferential runways, and phasing out the noisy aircraft and replacing them with new ones (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015). Besides, in collaboration with Tucson city and Pima County, the airport has embraced the zoning strategy by which controlled development and settlements are regulated in the noise-prone areas. Land acquisition programs have also been done in the past to have the airport authority manage much of the land in the airport’s proximity. In fact, this is aimed at reducing noise impacts on the surrounding community (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview. 2015).


Since the 1990s, the Tucson International Airport has continuously recorded increasing incidences involving wildlife. In fact, Peick (2012) recorded that since 1990, over 2200 wildlife strikes have been committed by planes in the airport. Accordingly, the TIA ranks first to record the highest number of incidences of wildlife in Arizona. It is worth noting that most of the incidences involve the birds colliding with the planes, while others are sucked into the plane engines. In fact, those instances necessitate emergency landings, a situation that compromises the airport quality; hence, more repairs are done (Peick, 2012). In addition, more incidents with wildlife are not reported by the airport, indicating that there could be more occurrences than currently documented. Close observation and analysis of the incidences involving wildlife show that they often occur in the water areas like the Hudson River (Peick, 2012). The incident risks have caused the airport authority to embrace proactive measures to mitigate the associated risks. For instance, the airport ensures no vegetation in the surrounding area because this would attract birds to the airport. In fact, the prevention measures are more desirable than responding to collision cases that cost the airport authority thousands of dollars in repairs and the associated risks (Peick, 2012). However, the airport records few instances of wildlife despite the availability of many javelinas, rabbits as well as birds as compared to other airports in the region (Peick, 2012).

The TIA Operations

As the second largest airport in Arizona, the Tucson International Airport serves the wider interests of the local population and international flight services (Airport-technology, 2015). Situated at about six miles from the city center of the capital Tucson, the airport presents the most efficient and convenient means of transport to the business class as well as the majority of tourists. The airport recorded serving approximately 3.65 million passengers, a 2.2% decrease from the previous year. Besides, the same year recorded approximately 154,000 aircraft movements (Airport-technology, 2015). As such, the TIA operations are relatively high, as seen from the commercial flights and the annual capacity of operations. In fact, according to the working master plan for the airport, it is expected to handle approximately six million passengers annually by 2025. The 2030 master plan that illustrates the intended developments shows that the airport’s operations will have doubled by the time of completion. In that aspect, there would be a gradual increase in operations over the years (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015).

All the operations of the airport are operated from the two concourses, concourse A and B, which are served by twenty gates (Airport-technology, 2015). Besides, the terminals are well served with spacious waiting lounges for the passengers, baggage collection sections, operation desks, and meal places (Airport-technology, 2015). Moreover, the airport has special information desks as well as car rental desks that facilitate the movement of the arrivals. The third level of the airport terminal accommodates shops, restaurants, and meeting rooms. It is worth noting that the airport operates an effective system of background inspections for the landing and takeoff planes (Airport-technology, 2015). Besides, the airport authority runs an efficient system of aircraft maintenance to ensure that faulty airplanes do not compromise the quality of services offered.

Effective airport management has seen the TIA grow tremendously over the years (Airport-technology, 2015). The current operations are far improved compared to the initial operations in the 20th century. The efficient management and the constant expansion of the airport and the associated facilities have improved the upgrading of operations at the airport. Finally, the Tucson International airport authority management prioritizes safety (Airport-technology. 2015). The authority runs safety measures and has a safety department, which ensures that all airport operations adhere to the aviation industry’s safety standards. The airport supervisor ensures that all the airport operations adhere to the safety standards (Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview, 2015).

Airport Finance

The Tucson International Airport substation runs a very efficient financial department headed by competent financial management teams. According to the Fitch ratings, the outlook for the authority is very stable, with about $53.3 million in outstanding revenues in bonds (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015). With an ‘A’ rating, the Fitch rates show that the authority operates in a strong financial position. The airport authority operates a robust cash balance, negative leverage, a sizeable non-aeronautical revenue generation, and a high debt-service coverage ratio (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015). Besides, the authority benefits from residual lease agreements that have been effective in debt coverage and cost recovery frameworks. Besides, the lease programs enable the authority to raise considerably sizeable amounts of capital for the facilitation of expansion programs, as has been experienced. The airport’s carrier base is equally moderately diversified to ensure that the operations of the authority are kept at the lowest costs while realizing high-efficiency rates (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015).

As such, the airport’s financial positions were shown to be very strong, with effectiveness and efficiencies in the management being credited to the financial management department and the strong financial foundation initially created through the lease agreements. Besides, as illustrated earlier, the projected airport’s growth points towards a consistent and sustainable increase in revenues (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015). Furthermore, the authority envisions extending its operations by investing in the international market and adding to the private investment base that it currently operates (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015). Finally, the master development plan shows commitments by the authority to add to the existing airlines to cover both local and international flights as the demand for the services keep rising (Fitch Ratings, Inc., 2015).


The Tucson International Airport has risen to become the second in operations and customer service in Arizona State. Effective management teams, as well as the regional competitiveness of the aviation industry, have necessitated and facilitated the commendable growth of the airport authority over the years. Besides, the projected performance of the authority in the 21st century has streamlined towards a possible increase in the volume of operations and the financial position at large. However, the airport authority has had to battle through the challenges associated with increased environmental pollution and the risk posed by wildlife. Besides, noise pollution has also had a great effect on the operations of the airport, and a sizeable amount of finances has been committed to the issue. Currently, the operations of the airport continue to facilitate air transport to both local and international passengers, with a plan to increase the scale of operations in the future. Finally, the authority’s financial position is strong and commendable for the airport’s operations.



Airport-technology. (2015). Tucson International Airport, Arizona (TUS / KTUS). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/tucson-international-airport-arizona/

Fitch Ratings, Inc. (2015). Fitch Affirms Tucson Airport Authority, AZ’s Sub Airport Revs at ‘A’; Outlook Stable. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from https://www.fitchratings.com/site/fitch-home/pressrelease?id=990174

Peick, S. (2012). More than 2,200 wildlife strikes reported to FAA in Arizona since 1990. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://cronkitenewsonline.com/2012/11/more-than-2200-wildlife-strikes-reported-to-faa-in-arizona-since-1990/

Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) Overview. (2015). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/waste/sps/Tucson_International_Airport_Area_Overview.html

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