Auckland International Airport to begin second round of runway maintenance early due to COVID-19

Major runway maintenance projects have been brought forward thanks to COVID-19.
Major runway maintenance projects have been brought forward thanks to COVID-19. Photo credit: Newshub.

Auckland International Airport has confirmed plans for a second major maintenance project on its runway, again taking advantage of the reduction in the number of flights brought about by COVID-19 to complete important infrastructure work.

The new project involves the replacement of 81 slabs at the western end of the runway, which will be shortened for a second time. 

In the earlier 12-week runway project, which was successfully completed in August, 280 slabs were replaced at the eastern end.

André Lovatt, the airport's general manager infrastructure, said the first slab-replacement programme was a great success.

"Our organisation has been significantly affected by COVID-19, but the downturn in aviation traffic has also created opportunities for us to carry out runway works with minimal disruption to airlines, to ensure the ongoing safety and efficiency of our airfield," Lovatt said.

The runway will be shortened by nearly a kilometre at the western end for the duration of the works, known as a "displaced threshold". This allows runway works to be carried out safely while the runway remains open.

About 14,000 flights are expected to use the shortened runway during the eight-week programme of works, around half the number from the same period last year.

A 150-strong construction team will begin work on Thursday and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

During the works, 250 truckloads of concrete will be poured, covering 3000 square metres of runway - an area the size of six tennis courts. The 36 square metre slabs are 500mm thick.

Lovatt said Auckland Airport had cancelled or deferred many key infrastructure projects in light of COVID-19.

"We've had to reduce our infrastructure development programme over the next couple of years - but we're making a point of prioritising projects that are focused on essential safety and asset maintenance," he said.

"Safety is our top priority and we worked closely with airlines, pilots' associations, Airways, the CAA and our designers and contractors to develop the plans for this work."