Stansted Airport uses fall in traffic to undertake runway maintenance

With COVID-19 resulting in near-zero aircraft movements, Stansted Airport has used the opportunity to complete maintenance of its runway during the day.

Runway maintenance occurs at London Stansted

London Stansted Airport’s (STN) engineering team is using the unprecedented grounding of aircraft across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a unique opportunity to move planned overnight runway maintenance works to daytime hours.

The airport’s 3,048m runway undergoes full re-surfacing work every 10-15 years but, as with other busy airports, regular heavy maintenance also takes place twice a year – overnight during weekends in the spring and autumn – to minimise any disruption to flights.

While the airport remains open for business with a limited number of commercial flights still operating – as well as a busy cargo operation that continues to bring vital supplies into the UK – the current reduction in flights has enabled the engineering and airfield operational teams to close the runway during part of the day.

Kathy Morrisey, London Stansted Airport’s Asset Maintenance Services Director, said: “We all recognise that this is an extremely difficult and challenging time for the whole country and, here at the airport, it is no different following the dramatic and unprecedented reduction in flights. The situation has, however, given us the unique opportunity to access the runway during the day when, usually, we would have hundreds of aircraft landing or taking off.”

Morrisey continued: “This means that, rather than a maximum of three and a half hours a night over the weekend, the team will have up to six hours each weekday to complete complex maintenance work without the same time pressures and challenges of working overnight. The runway is obviously a key asset for the airport, and it is critical that it is maintained to the highest standard. So, while we are in a situation none of us would wish to be in, we are using this as an opportunity to carry out essential work to ensure the airport is able to return to normal as quickly as possible once the current restrictions are lifted.”

This change creates an extended period of time for specialist contractors to safely access the runway and makes it easier to carry out technical work in daylight hours rather than at night. The runway works are taking place on weekdays between 14-24 April 2020.

The project is being managed by Stansted’s Engineering Maintenance team and delivered by Marriott Civils, with up to 200 contractors and engineers, as well as 100 vehicles and items of machinery tasked with laying the 1,000 tonnes of asphalt necessary to complete the work.

At the same time, 3,600 airfield lights are being upgraded with energy efficient, high performance LED lamps – similar to those already installed on the runway – that are crucial in the safe operation of aircraft in low visibility conditions. The new low energy LED variants will reduce power output from airfield lights by around 70 per cent, helping to drive down operating costs and subsequently cutting emissions.

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