Airports are labor intensive businesses. Every time you turn around, there always seems to something that needs attention.
A runway check each morning is easy enough to point out a broken runway light or two, or patch a piece of crumbling taxiway pavement. Sometimes though, the work’s a bit more involved, like when an airplane ends up somewhere we hope it wouldn’t, like a few months ago when a Falcon 20 landing on runway 16 ran through the engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) at the south end of the airport. The crushable blocks of this new-age runway safety system, did their job and halted the airplane with minimum damage to the airplane and zero damage to the pilots.
The EMAS engagement did leave a pretty glaring hole in the block structure though, something the airport fixed last week with the help of Boland Construction out of New York, a company experienced at EMAS repairs. The work was planned for eight nights of runway closures from 10 pm until 6 am the next morning. But time is money and airports and the businesses that depend upon us don’t make much when the main runway is shut down. The basic plan was to complete as much work each night safely and hope to maybe shave a night off the calendar which would mean less disruption for users.
On Monday evening, the first barricades went up to protect workers and warn pilots again the runway should not be used. Boland’s nine employees removed a number of extra EMAS blocks that looked questionable on second inspection and used torches to loosen the adhesive that originally held the blocks in place. Time to call it a night.
Tuesday’s efforts were rained out, but everyone was back on Wednesday at 10 pm when the new blocks were put in place. By Thursday night, there wasn’t much to do except caulk the blocks – just like your bathroom tile – and add the new yellow striping. By Friday morning, it was time to coordinate with the control tower to keep aircraft away and allow everything time to cure. By Saturday morning, the long runway was open for business.
In the end, the teams managed to shave three full nights of work from the project which translated into increased runway availability for airport tenants and transient operators and it was back to business as usual.
Along with the runway, the 16 instrument landing system (ILS) was also brought back to life without the need for another flight check. Thanks for your patience everyone.