Auckland Airport will take advantage of the coronavirus downturn by bringing forward a $26 million runway works project, which will now begin in just two weeks.
The method the airport is using to replace the pavement, known as ‘displaced threshold’, would normally require aircraft to reduce their weight, however, this will likely happen naturally due to the reduction in passenger numbers.
Aircraft will still be able to use the existing runway, but it will be shortened by 1.1 kilometres during the two-month construction period.
Auckland Airport general manager André Lovatt said, “We’ve experienced a significant reduction in flights and passenger numbers, with aircraft movements currently 90-95 per cent lower than a normal busy day.
“This project has been planned for some time, but it was clear that we had an opportunity to bring construction forward to the earliest available time while runway movements are at an all-time low.”
The project will create work for 150 people over three months and involves the removal and replacement of 280 36-squrae-metre slabs in the eastern end of the touch down zone.
It will also see 12,000 tonnes of concrete laid five metres thick to create the heavy, industrial-grade pavement necessary to withstand large planes landing.
“Carrying out slab replacement work is a normal part of maintaining safe airfield operations and one undertaken regularly by airports around the world,” said Lovatt.
“Our runway, which was originally constructed in 1965, has been developed and renewed over the years as part of a program of work that follows recognised standards and is overseen by independent experts.”
The news comes despite Air New Zealand announcing last week that it was aiming to increase flights when the country’s coronavirus restrictions are lowered to ‘Alert Level 2’ – a decision now expected in days.
Chief executive Greg Foran said the airline plans to operate around 20 per cent of its usual capacity, but would not be able to offer cheap fares because of social distancing requirements.
He also warned that, even when all restrictions are eventually lifted, it will be a “slow journey” back to pre-COVID-19 frequencies.
“This is the harsh reality of closed international borders and a depressed domestic economy, with more Kiwis in unemployment and people watching what they spend,” Foran said.