Our summer maintenance programme is almost complete, which will soon mean dozens of skilled workers going
back to daytime shifts.
Replacing the runways' ageing concrete shoulders is a
once-in-20-year requirement and very complicated. It is entirely
weather dependent, so, for months now, dedicated teams of workers
and machinery have waited on the edge of the airfield on Sunday to
Thursday nights for the 9pm go-ahead or stand-down.
If the conditions allow work to begin, the worksites become a
hive of overnight activity, forcing late scheduled flights, freight
planes and any diverted flights onto the shorter east-west runway.
This, combined with calm summer nights, has inevitably led to
neighbours noticing more aircraft noise this summer.
General Manager of Strategy and Sustainability, Rhys Boswell,
apologises for the increased noise and says the project was always
going to be challenging.
"This work can't happen during the day, because the large
aircraft which fly in and out of here internationally each day need
to use the full length of the north-south runway. The maintenance
work requires periodic closing of the north-south runway at night,
so aircraft have to use the shorter east-west runway to take off
"When the wind is coming from the north-east (the prevailing
wind in Christchurch), aircraft must take off in an easterly
direction, because they need to take off into the wind.
"Neighbours have reminded us the east-west runway is
colloquially referred to as the nor'west runway, so people have
been confused as to why it has been used in other conditions. It is
predominantly used in nor'west wind conditions, but not limited to
them. On occasion, including during maintenance work, the east-west
runway is used for reasons of operational efficiency and
Mr Boswell says the maintenance work has coincided with a
record-breaking summer at the airport.
"We've had record growth this summer, with new flights and
airlines bringing record numbers of visitors into Christchurch and
the South Island. In the run-up to Christmas, we also had
additional pre-Christmas freight flights, Antarctic movements and
an international defence exercise on the West Coast using this
airport for late night manoeuvres.
"While that's positive for the city and South Island, it's not
so good for people who don't like aircraft noise. However, the
runway maintenance work is likely to be completed by the end of
April, as long as the weather doesn't get in our way.
"At that point, aircraft using the east-west runway because the
north-south is unavailable to them overnight, will decrease in
number and return to more usual patterns.
"In the meantime, we do appreciate the understanding of our
community while the essential works make our runways safe for all
aircraft - and their passengers."