Cork Airport to close for 10 weeks for multi-million runway upgrade

It is planned to reopen the airport ahead of what is hoped to be a busy Christmas period
Cork Airport to close for 10 weeks for multi-million runway upgrade

The main runway at Cork Airport, the second-busiest in the country that is set for significant resurfacing work.

Cork Airport has announced the dates of its 10-week closure this autumn to facilitate a complete upgrade of its main runway.

As first reported by the Irish Examiner in March, the airport announced an extended closure to all fixed-wing aircraft operations from early September until November while the runway 16/34 is dug up, rebuilt and upgraded.

Management has now confirmed the airport will close on September 10 and reopen on November 22 in time for what it is hoped will be a busy Christmas period.

It is understood the runway upgrade works will not affect the operation of search and rescue or air ambulance helicopter missions.

The runway upgrade was planned to take place in 2022 but was brought forward by the pandemic, which has decimated the airport’s aircraft passenger numbers by 99%.

Minimal disruption

Management said the fall-off in passenger numbers has provided a unique opportunity to complete the runway project with minimal disruption to aircraft operations.

“Once the decision was made last year to bring forward the project, work began immediately on the extensive planning and design phases of the project,” a spokesman said.

“Stakeholder consultation began last autumn and an accelerated tender process began in November to have a contractor appointed in May, with the works to be completed in 2021.

“The reconstruction project will be the single-biggest construction project, and the biggest investment, by DAA at Cork Airport since the opening of the new terminal building in 2006.” 

Work is also ongoing on a €12m upgrade of the airport’s hold-baggage security screening system.

“DAA is taking a strategic view to invest during the downturn, in the long-term interest of the economy given that Cork Airport's connectivity will play a key role in helping the recovery from the current crisis,” airport spokesman, Kevin Cullinane, said.

The main runway, designated 16/34, has been in operation since the airport opened in October 1961.

Built at 1,883m-long, it was extended by 300m in 1989. It was overlaid just once, in 1999.

Cracks on the runway surface

Repeated landings over many years of heavy jets weighing up to 70 tonnes caused cracks on the runway surface into which water runs, causing deeper cracks in the runway’s substructure. The runway is now at the end of its operational life.

The upgrade work will involve a structural reconstruction of the main runway, an upgrading of aircraft ground lighting to energy efficient LEDs, the installation of runway edge and centreline lighting, the replacement of secondary cabling and transformers, the construction of a new electrical pit and duct system, upgrading of primary electrical circuits in place since the 1980s, and a new electricity substation to provide back-up for the current substation.

The airport has consulted more than a dozen other international airports in the UK and continental Europe which have completed similar runway projects in recent years.

The contract for the runway work is expected to be awarded within weeks.

The airport is also working on a new route incentive and marketing scheme to ensure it can market itself aggressively as the global aviation industry recovers.

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