Overnight runway maintenance coming to an end

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 and land.

"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 safety."

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."