Auckland Airport shortens runway to begin work on damaged surface

Auckland Airport's runway is to be shortened by one kilometre on Sunday night as the airport begins work to repair panels in the touchdown area which have become damaged. 

An 80-strong construction team will work through the night to shorten the runway in a way that will mean the rest of it will be able to remain fully functional.

The runway's condition has drawn criticism from airlines and aviation authorities over the past 12 months after it had numerous unscheduled closures resulting in hundreds of passengers having their flights diverted to other airports around New Zealand.

"This pattern of underspend has led directly to the need for multiple closures, interrupting aircraft, inconveniencing customers, and driving more cost onto airlines as they recover from inevitable diversions," the Airlines for Australia and New Zealand said in February.

The repair work on the runway which involves replacing 280 slabs of concrete was scheduled for later this year, but the drop in air traffic due to  COVID-19 has allowed the airport to begin the work earlier.

"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," said André Lovatt, general managerairport development and delivery.

"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."

Around 12,000 tonnes  the weight of 21 fully-loaded A380s  of concrete will be poured, measuring 500mm thick.

Jet-blast fences will be transported onto Auckland Airport's runway tonight.

Winds from a Boeing 777 at take off can reach up to 300km/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.

The runway's length will be shortened from 3635m to 2634m during the repair process, which while shorter than usual, will still be longer than Wellington's runway which is 2081m in length.