The AirTanker consortium, of which Southwell is chief executive, was named preferred bidder for the £13bn air-to-air refuelling aircraft contract last month. It is expected to sign off the deal before the summer.
Southwell, who left his Atkins chief executive post in the wake of a profit warning and 400 job cuts in September 2002, said that the deal, which lasts for 27 years, is likely to involve several construction contracts as well as facilities management work.
Southwell, who considers that he was made the scapegoat for the Atkins debacle, said he was delighted at the prospect of working with the construction industry again. He said: "Absolutely, I'm looking forward to it. I missed the construction industry enormously."
The first construction contracts are likely to be announced by the end of the year. It is uncertain whether they will be bundled together or separated out to go to several parties. The contracts might go out to an invited competition, with five or six contractors with FM capability asked to pitch.
I missed the construction industry enormously
Southwell said: "We may look at bundling the contracts if it proves to be cheaper."
The construction work available would be for a hangar that could house two A330-200 aircraft (which are almost the size of jumbo jets), a simulator, storage for logistics equipment and working accommodation for about 600 crew. The accommodation contract would include the FM element.
n The importance of best practice in the construction sector is a myth, according to a report contrasting the sector with aerospace firms.