News | Long Beach Airport Gives Students Behind-the-Scenes Technical Tour of New Projects

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by Arnav Chatterjee, USC, Master of Urban Planning 2023

On October 1, fifteen USC students had the opportunity to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of Long Beach Airport (LGB). Students arrived outside the airport around 1 PM, where they were greeted by USC Adjunct Associate Professor Eric Shen and Kate Kuykendall, the Public Affairs Officer at LGB.  The tour was organized by the USC Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and cohosted by METRANS Transportation Consortium and the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR).  "USC ITE student chapter continues creating educational and fun activities related to transportation,” notes Shen, who also serves as chapter advisor.  “If you are interested in mobility issues, come join us!"


Students and hosts gather for group photo


To start, everyone gathered in a presentation room on the second floor. There, Cynthia Guidry, Airport Director, invited everyone to introduce themselves with their names and interests. It became apparent that the students came from a variety of programs, including undergraduate and graduate students from urban planning, civil engineering, public policy, business, and more. Guidry expressed delight in the diversity, explaining that "it takes all these different areas of expertise" to run a successful airport. When she explained her own background, she revealed that she had not expected to work in aviation but was very happy with where she had ended up. She encouraged the students to keep the same kind of open mind: "Expose yourself to as much as you possibly can.”


Cynthia Guidry, Director of LGB, introduces LGB and shares career guidance with students


Next, Stephen Lum, Senior Civil Engineer, gave a detailed presentation on LGB’s ongoing improvement projects. The ultimate goal of these construction projects, he explained, was to enhance the customer experience. The improvements currently underway include a new ticketing lobby, checked back inspection system, baggage claim area, and more. In his presentation, Lum delved into the logistics of several aspects of the project, including engineering, marketing, finances, politics, and more. Students got a comprehensive picture of the scope of teamwork needed for a project of this scale.


The tour followed. Students donned bright construction vests and hard hats in adherence to safety rules. First, the group was taken through some of the existing operational areas of the airport. In the mostly deserted concourse, Kuykendall explained that this was the slowest time of day; peak hours tended to be in the morning. As the tour proceeded through the waiting area, she explained LGB’s culture. The airport was built to evoke a boutique “hometown feel” with an “easygoing and relaxed atmosphere.” Unlike most large airports, passengers at LGB board directly on the tarmac. There is also an outdoor waiting area that will be fitted with eye-catching furniture and a fire pit.


Students don safety gear to tour active construction areas


In the second part of the tour, led by Senior Construction Manager Jared Kemp, students ventured into the active construction areas. As Jared led the group through the site, he pointed out where familiar activities would take place once it was finished: the row of kiosks where passengers would check in, the counters where they would drop off bags, the area where they would undergo security screening. The group also visited some areas that passengers do not normally see, including some back offices and the facility for conveying bags to and from aircrafts.


Senior Construction Manager Jared Kemp gives guided tour of new facilities being built


As students envisioned how the place will look at this time next year, some of them thought out loud that it would be nice to fly out of LGB then. Not only was the field trip a valuable window into a multifaceted construction project, but it was also a chance to discover an exciting new place to potentially visit while traveling.   “We greatly appreciate these engaging events the ITE chapter creates and generously offers to all interested students – not just those in the chapter,” noted METRANS Associate Director, Victoria Deguzman.  “It is our privilege to co-host them with ITE, and we look forward to many more.”


Long Beach Airport


About the Author:

Arnav Chatterjee is a first-year Master of Urban Planning student at the USC Price School of Public Policy with a concentration in transportation planning. He is passionate about equitable transportation policy and research and is originally from Boston, Massachusetts.