Runway Safety Project Approved at Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport has welcomed the Australian Government’s decision to approve the construction of a larger runway safety area at the western end of the east-west runway and confirmed that construction will commence in mid-October 2008. The CEO of Sydney Airport, Russell Balding, said he was pleased that a way to maintain some aircraft operations on the east-west runway had been found and that the complete closure of the runway during construction was no longer required. "I want to thank everyone who made submissions during our public consultation program.  While people clearly appreciated that aviation safety is essential, many public submissions asked us to work harder to minimise aircraft noise impacts," Mr Balding said. "Sydney Airport has cooperated with Airservices Australia to do that. The package of noise mitigation measures announced by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, together with a shortened construction program, will reduce the aircraft noise impacts originally envisaged when this project was first announced last year."

The flight paths that aircraft use when approaching or departing Sydney Airport are determined by the Australian Government’s Airservices Australia in line with the principles of the Long Term Operating Plan.

The provision of larger runway safety areas at Australia’s airports is a mandatory safety requirement set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and is in line with international aviation standards.  Runway safety areas protect passengers in the unlikely event that an aircraft over runs or lands short of a runway.

The runway safety area will be an 8,100 square metre concrete land bridge to provide a cleared area measuring 90 metres by 90 metres from the end of the runway strip to assist in the deceleration of an aircraft.  Construction will involve the installation of more than one hundred 27 metre long pre-cast concrete structural beams, each weighing more than 25 tonnes. 

The large tall cranes, plant and other equipment needed for the $85 million construction mean that there will be restrictions on the east-west runway’s operations while construction takes place. 

Mr Balding thanked Minister Albanese for his approval of this essential safety project.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that Sydney Airport has no interest in seeing one of its runways not in full operation.

"There is no one more interested in seeing the runway safety area constructed and the airport quickly returned to normal operations than Sydney Airport itself," Mr Balding said. 

Many public submissions also asked that construction work be undertaken at night. There will be extensive night works including:

  • excavation and filling works
  • removal of substantial volumes of excavated material
  • pavement construction work
  • construction of a stormwater detention basin
  • installation of new services
  • construction work relating to the retaining wall

Undertaking construction work at night does not mean that the east-west runway can be returned to full operations during daylight hours because construction of the runway safety area will require:

  • the presence of a giant pit at the end of the runway
  • 35 metre high cranes being used to place the piles into the ground
  • building materials that must stay in place for extended periods of time (such as formwork which must stay in situ while concrete dries)

These obstacles at the end of a runway pose a serious risk to aircraft and therefore passengers - which is why operational restrictions will be required.  However, as indicated by the Minister, some aircraft will be able to depart to the east off the runway.

The construction program has been developed taking into account historical weather data about the likely occurrence of high cross-winds.  This is an important consideration in minimising potential disruptions for passengers and airlines as if there are high cross winds while the east-west runway is not fully unavailable then flights may be delayed or diverted.    

Sydney Airport apologises to people who will be affected by this vital runway safety project, but it is essential that we comply with the Australian Government’s air safety regulations.


Source: Sydney Airport
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