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Auckland Airport runway now A380-ready

22 May 2006

Auckland Airport runway now A380-ready

At 5:00am yesterday morning, Auckland Airport's final stage of the runway rehabilitation project was completed. This signalled the end of a programme that began in 1991. While the work - known as 'R6' this year - was in progress, aircraft used the standby runway. This has now reverted to being the main taxiway. An important part of the project included the widening of the main runway to accommodate the new generation Airbus A380 aircraft.

The runway rehabilitation programme replaced sections of the 300mm thick concrete slabs constructed when the airport was built in 1965. The new half-metre thick concrete pavement will extend runway life in the rehabilitated areas by an expected 40 years. Upgrade work has been completed in sections over a number of years to minimise disruption to airfield activities.

Auckland Airport chief executive Don Huse says, "Working in a critical operating infrastructure environment requires comprehensive planning and team work amongst a wide range of agencies.

"We had a large group of people and organisations on this project, from consulting engineers to contractors, Airways New Zealand, the airlines and the airport company. Everyone has worked successfully as a team to complete this project with a minimum of disruption to normal flight operations".

This final stage of the programme replaced 577 six-by-six metre concrete slabs on the main runway. Twelve different contracting organisations worked for 56 days, much of the time around-the-clock, to place 24,500 tonnes of concrete. If this amount of concrete was used in a typical footpath, it would stretch from Auckland Airport to Hamilton.

During the previous runway project in 2005, just over half the runway was widened by 7.5 metres on each side to accommodate the A380. This year, that work was completed along with widening the corners of some taxiways.

The A380 is the largest passenger aircraft ever built. It requires modifications to airports around the world because of its size.

Carrying over 550 passengers, the double-decker aircraft may have a similar impact on aviation as the Boeing 747 did in the 1970s. The main factor for airports is the 79.8m wingspan. The engines are also larger and hang from wings that are wider than the 747.

Auckland International Airport Limited, its airline customers and consulting engineers Beca have been working manufacturer Airbus to investigate what work needs to ensure airport developments adequately meet the needs of all involved.

Don Huse says that getting Auckland Airport ready for the A380 is vital, "It is most important for Auckland to be able to accommodate the A380. If we don't, Auckland and New Zealand, could risk becoming a second-tier destination... or 'branch line' from Sydney. It is crucial for New Zealand's tourism and air cargo sectors that we are ready for this exciting aircraft."


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