Pavement works take off: Auckland Airport runway to be shortened overnight

24 May 2020

Jet-blast fences will be transported onto Auckland Airport’s runway tonight (Sunday, 24 May) to make way for a $26 million project to replace pavement in the main touchdown zone.

From 11pm tonight, an 80-strong construction team will work through the night to shorten Auckland Airport’s runway by 1.1km, allowing for the replacement of 280 slabs at the eastern end of the runway while the airfield remains safe and operational.

André Lovatt, General Manager Airport Development & Delivery, said the runway works had been planned for a later date, but the outbreak of COVID-19 and the significant reduction in flights and passenger numbers had provided an opportunity to bring the works forward.

“The runway is New Zealand’s main connection point to the world, and in the months and years ahead it’s going to play a critical role in our country’s economic recovery.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a sudden and severe impact on everyone in the tourism industry including Auckland Airport, and while we miss the excitement of travellers, it was clear we had an opportunity to move the pavement works forward and get the project underway earlier.”

Aircraft will continue to land and take off throughout the 8 to 10-week construction project, using what’s called a “displaced threshold”, a method for allowing runway works to be carried out safely while the runway remains open.

Mr Lovatt said the programme will create work for 150 people and will see up to 120 truck movements daily, bringing in concrete and other material during the construction period. The 36m2 slabs are located on the 23L touchdown zone, the part of the runway on which most planes land. Around 12,000 tonnes – the weight of 21 fully loaded A380s – of concrete will be poured, measuring 500mm thick.

Jet-blast winds from a B777 at take off can reach up to 300kp/h. Workers will be over 200m behind departing aircraft and protected by blast fences, which dilute and deflect the force of jet engines while the runway is in use. When working close to the blast fence, workers will move to a safe area when larger aircraft depart.

“Carrying out slab replacement work is a normal part of maintaining safe airfield operations and one undertaken regularly by airports around the world. Safety is our top priority and we have developed the plan for this project in close consultation with pilots and our airline partners to ensure the project is carried out smoothly and safely,” said Mr Lovatt.

Auckland Airport last operated with a displaced threshold during routine maintenance works in 2016. All aircraft types can safely land and take off with the displaced threshold in place. Mr Lovatt said in normal circumstances, a displaced threshold method could result in the need for airlines to reduce aircraft weight, but with fewer fully laden aircraft flying it was less likely.

“These new runway slabs will be robust enough to handle the heaviest and largest aircraft, taking off at weights of up to 575 tonnes.”

The runway pavement replacement is a critical component of Auckland Airport’s much reduced infrastructure development programme over the next couple of years, one which prioritises selected capital projects that are focused on essential safety and asset maintenance.

Mr Lovatt said Auckland Airport has a continuous programme of slab replacement and renewal, with slabs last replaced in the mid-section of the runway over the summer of 2006-2007. On that occasion, the existing taxiway was used as a contingent runway. That option was considered for this project but the added complexity of converting the taxiway to a safe, operational runway in a short time frame meant it was not possible.

The safety case for the runway works has been reviewed and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Aviation partners for the project were: Airways, Airwork, Air New Zealand, Federation of Air New Zealand Pilots (FANZP), New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA), Qantas Group and Tasman Cargo Airlines.

The contractor for the works is Brian Perry Civil.


For further information please contact:

Winston Aldworth
Communications Manager
+64 21 819 036