Questions raised about compliance of proposed runway at Auckland Airport
As a result of the burgeoning numbers of domestic and international air traffic into and out of New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland International Airport (AIAL) is once again working on plans to convert one of its existing taxiways into a runway.
Airport management has been in consultation with airlines and industry groups, including NZALPA, to discuss the implications and requirements of a project of this nature.
The airport’s main runway requires closure for maintenance to ensure that it continues to be safe enough to handle the growing number of flights. In addition, to reduce disruption or the closure of the airport the proposal is that it would also provide for an ‘alternative’ runway.
NZALPA Senior Technical Officer Dave Reynolds and members of NZALPA’s Technical Committee have been involved in the consultation with AIAL and, while understanding AIAL’s need for a viable runway option for contingencies, has highlighted a number of risks and safety concerns about the proposals.
“There are three key concerns about the proposal for NZALPA,” Reynolds said.
“First it is questionable whether the ‘Runway Strip Width’ is compliant with ICAO regulations; it likely will not have a ‘Precision Approach’; and thirdly, NZALPA is concerned that the to be named runway O5L/23R, will not provide for a fully compliant 240 metre Runway End Safety Area (RESA) at its eastern end.
The recent Supreme Court decision regarding Wellington International Airport Limited’s (WIAL’s) proposed extension of the Wellington runway, clarified this 240m requirement,” said Reynolds.
AIAL and its consultants have comprehensively addressed many of the safety concerns raised over many months of consultation with NZALPA and other stakeholders, and a large number of safety features have been included in their detailed design. However, Reynolds maintains that comprehensive solutions to NZALPA’s three key concerns remain to be found.
AIAL is currently awaiting a decision from the NZ CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) on the ‘240m RESA issue’. “It will be interesting to see how the CAA actually responds to this matter in light of the Supreme Court decision,” Reynolds said.
“Interestingly AIAL’s plan is for a ‘Flexible Contingent Runway’ or ‘FCR’ which when called upon will be operable both in daylight and at night and on an ‘as and when needed’ basis – unlike that previously granted for the use of a taxiway as a runway and only for a very short ‘one off’ night time period to cover emergency runway repairs and closure some years ago.”
Essentially taxiway ‘Alpha’ will be converted to a runway and marked, lit, signposted, protected and operated as such.
“Although fitted with a system to warn air traffic control if an aircraft is approaching the wrong runway, there are well known risks associated with such operations and the risk of confusing one runway close and parallel to another are significant”
Aviation accidents and incidents during taxi, take-off and landing remain amongst the most frequent and challenging of all aviation safety challenges.
On 29 April this year, a Vietnam Airlines A321-200 with 200 passengers on board landed on a closed runway at Nha Trang in Vietnam and in July of last year an Air Canada A320-200 came to within 60ft (18m) of landing on taxiway ‘Charlie’ which was lined with aircraft – parallel to runway 28R at San Francisco.
“We need to ensure that any proposal for an FCR at Auckland has the continuing safety of pilots and the travelling public as a focus and the mitigation of risk as its prime goal” Reynolds concluded.
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