Main entrance gate to Chile

Posted: 28 March 2008 | General de Brigada Aérea (A), José Huepe Pérez, Director General of Civil Aviation | No comments yet

In the last few years, the Chilean aeronautical sector has experienced significant growth; in 2007 9,010,979 passengers were transported, of which nearly 8.5 million went through Santiago’s airport. In total, over 120,000 tons of freight and 95,000 operations make Arturo Merino Benítez Airport the main entrance gate to Chile.

In the last few years, the Chilean aeronautical sector has experienced significant growth; in 2007 9,010,979 passengers were transported, of which nearly 8.5 million went through Santiago’s airport. In total, over 120,000 tons of freight and 95,000 operations make Arturo Merino Benítez Airport the main entrance gate to Chile.

The Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (Chilean Aviation Authority), together with the Ministry of Public Works and SCL Terminal Aéreo Santiago (the company which has administrated the Terminal since 1999 through a concession, in respect of the concessionary policy defined by the government), have carried out constant improvements in matters of infrastructure, technology and procedures to meet the demands of the users and the air transport.

The airport provides services such as Air Traffic Control, Air Operations Office (ARO), Airport Security, Fire Fighting and Rescue services, Meteorological Information, Passenger Terminal (national and international), Air Freight, Border Police, Customs, Sanitation (SAG), Private Flights Terminal (FBO), Handling, Catering, Bank and Finance, Aircraft Maintenance and Medical Emergency Services (SUM).

Green development

In order to deal with the expected growth to 19 million passengers in 2020, Santiago airport’s infrastructure is permanently being renovated. The Airport Management of the Public Works Ministry regularly carries out the general description, and defines the design criteria and calculus memories according to the projections of the sector’s demands. A masterplan for Santiago’s airport is currently in progress. The plan guarantees; to increase the size of the premises, to provide better services, to restrict urban growth in the approach and take-off areas, and to foresee reserve grounds for future amplifications and the best possible integration of this airport into its immediate environment.

This is also why the Chilean Aviation Authority looks on environmental issues with great importance, particularly regarding air transportation and its implications on the airports and surrounding neighborhood. The DGAC has thus fixed ‘Environmental Policies’ in order to promote the sustainability of the National Aeronautical System development process, and to ensure the improvement and quality of the community’s quality of life.

Regarding Santiago’s airport, the institution is presently focused on the distinct environmental variants that are typical at an airport or an aerodrome, such as; atmospheric pollution, solid wastes, ground, noise, energy, water, fauna and bird hazards, that stem from the aeronautical activity. A significant investment has been made regarding the training, studying, equipment procurement and procedure implementation, among other topics, leading to a development that is environmentally harmonious and sustainable.

One of the reasons that DGAC-Chile was worthy of the Eagle Awards 2007, was the efficient elaboration of routes and procedures established by the ‘Minute Committee’, through processes that resulted in savings for the air companies and less gas emissions into the atmosphere.


The latest great investment made in the airport was the construction of a second 3,800 metre-long, 45-metre wide runway, designed for Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340 aircraft, within a project that also considered major maintenance of the runway that is currently in use. This allows an increase of at least 30% in the capacity of air operations, a figure that may still be improved, through the implementation of new technologies and procedures in order to overcome the flying restrictions imposed by geographical conditions.

Operating both runways diminishes congestion and reduces take-off and landing delays, which results in time and fuel savings, and thus is a timely and concrete answer to the challenges that Chile is facing today, after having signed commercial agreements with the world’s main economies. This makes Arturo Merino Benitez Airport the third airport terminal in the South Cone equipped with two runways, and places it in the top airport certification category worldwide.

AMB is considered one of the safest and most modern airports in the region, with some 50,000 people passing through its installations on a daily basis. The facility boasts 128 airline counters, special waiting areas and state-of-the-art information screens.

Technology for security

The air traffic is supported by a system of redundant radars, and a surface radar to control the movements of aircraft and vehicles. The two runways, (3,800 and 3,750m long) and their associated taxiways, are assisted by approach procedures based on conventional radio-aids. Among this equipment are a Category IIIB ILS (that allows aircraft to land with just 50 metres of visibility), and RNAV procedures, supported by an automated meteorological system.

A score of airlines are carrying out over 80,000 operations per year, and the coordination with the distinct entities responsible for airport security is a constant challenge that has been successfully met. Santiago’s Airport is strictly meeting the standards, methods and recommendations established by ICAO (International Civil Aviation organization). This is expressed through the implementation of strict safety measures and exhaustive controls, performed thanks to modern technology, by the Airport Security Services (AVSEC). In the same way, the distinct institutions interacting in the air terminal are applying an integral security system. This focuses on the detection of explosives and the illegal traffic of drugs and other products that might represent a danger and introduce plagues or diseases to Chile.

Elsewhere, the air traffic services operating in the Control Tower, as well as the airport security (AVSEC) and aircraft fire fighting services (SEI), are certified under the ISO 9001:2001 standard.

A little city

Apart from being acknowledged for its security, AMB is also distinguished by its quality. The airport includes practically all of the services needed to fulfill the needs of its users. One can find; insurance companies, travel agencies, car hire companies, gastronomy, exchange services, pharmacies, as well as telephone and internet facilities, a modern all-purpose clinic including dental care, bank services and even a kindergarten.

The airport proposes duty-free shops and over 70 businesses offering national and international brands. To meet the high level demands of today’s traveller a Holiday Inn Hotel is located a short distance from the airport, which has excellent facilities.

An intelligent public service

The Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (DGAC-CHILE) is the aviation authority that takes an active part in the development of the National Aeronautical System. It generates and updates the regulations, controls the activity of the aeronautical personnel, develops the aero navigation capacities and provides a specialised work force that allows a safe and efficient functioning of the air operations carried out over national territory.

In order to fulfill its mission, the DGAC projects itself as an Intelligent Public Service, able to foresee technological changes and aiming at excellence in services and user attention. These elements are a characteristic of modern aviation and have been adopted by the Institution through a series of technological developments of its own, in order to successfully meet the needs of the intelligent aircraft presently in service.

Internet Flight Information Service (IFIS)

This is a system that allows the pilots accessing the Portal Web to make their Flight Plan from any computer. All the necessary data is at their disposal including: the Chilean aeronautical information publication AIP-MAP (instrumental approach and landing procedures), METAR, with the meteorological information automatically updated every hour, NOTAMs, and an automatic dawn and dusk crepuscule’s system.

  • Virtual and Interactive Accreditation System (ALVI)
  • Airport Net Online Meteorological Cameras
  • Air Traffic Visualisation System

The aircraft possess the technological capacity for autonomously determining and following an optimum route between two points, thanks to inertial and satellite-based systems, and may dispense with conventional navigation systems based on radio-aids.

These technologies are significant for the trans-oceanic flights and, in the case of Chile, are essential to provide air navigation services to the routes over the South/Far South Pacific and their Antarctic extension to the South Pole, expanding the traditional 90º West Longitude up to 131º West Longitude, and the airspace administered by the DGAC up to 31.9 million square kilometres.

In the same way, the DGAC-Chile is currently working on the implementation of an Operational Security Management System. This mainly aims at developing and implementing a uniform system at global level, to control risks and diminish damages, defects and squandering through the application of a predictive method.

About the author

José Huepe Pérez is currently Director General of Chilean Civil Aviation, after having previously fulfilled the tasks of Director of Personnel Department in Ecuador, Director of the War Academy and Air Attaché in Brasil. He has a Masters in International Business from Gabriela Mistral University, holds the title of Engineer in Aeronautical Systems and has followed the course of International Laws at the San Remo Institute, in Italy.

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