Airport news

2017 05 22

Aviation Expert: The Runway in Vilnius Airport should be Reconstructed Now, not Later

J. Gintilas, who is the head of the institution responsible for the control of civil aviation in Lithuania, states that the current condition of the runway still ensures that planes can land and take off safely. However, the expert emphasises that currently there are three or four locations on the runway of Vilnius Airport that may pose a risk to flight safety and that must be repaired to avoid negative consequences for aircraft.

“The decaying asphalt concrete surface and small debris may get into aircraft engines, damage them, or even cause emergency situations. For this reason, the decision to repair the entire runway, considering the long-term prospects of Vilnius Airport to handle more and more passengers, is logical. Carrying out the reconstruction now is more convenient and cost-effective than postponing it till the near future when the number of flights increases and the condition of the runway becomes worse,” says J. Gintilas.

The head of the CAA reminds that the current runway was built in 1962 and reconstructed and lengthened in 1973. Since then, the runway was repaired twice: in 1991–1992 and in 2004–2005. However, both times the airport was not closed as repairs were done at night.

“The amount of work and the number of flights could not compare to what we have now,” notes J. Gintilas.

According to the aviation expert, to extend the service life of the runway as much as possible, regular small-scale maintenance work is crucial.

“The service life of the runway surface also depends on the materials used for runway maintenance, the extent and intensity of load, the level of ground water, and meteorological conditions. The service life between repairs comprises approximately 12-15 years for asphalt concrete surfaces and 25-30 years for concrete surfaces. The service life of the runway itself may be significantly longer,” says J. Gintilas.

After it was announced that the runway reconstruction in Vilnius Airport will take 35 summer days, there have been complaints that repairs could be done only at night, without disrupting the usual aircraft traffic. However, the head of the CAA is fairly emphatic on this point: making the necessary repairs of the runway in Vilnius Airport would be virtually impossible if work was done only at night.

“The length of the runway is 2515 m, so it is logical to repair such a relatively short stretch at once, without dividing the reconstruction into stages. In addition, if the runway is repaired in stages, it may impact the quality of the future runway and, most importantly, flight safety may be jeopardised if work at night is groundlessly sped up to make the runway ready for use in the morning.

In addition, there would be absolutely no space for emergencies that inevitably tend to happen, and I do not think that it would be more convenient for passengers to experience unexpected flight delays and landings at unscheduled airports than to anticipate certain planned inconveniences, which they could experience if flights were moved to Kaunas, in advance,” said the aviation expert regarding the drawbacks of potential nightly runway reconstruction.

J. Gintilas notes that runway reconstructions are unavoidable at all airports. However, many airports in major European cities have several runways or sufficiently wide parallel taxiways, which are used when the main runways are undergoing repairs.

During the reconstruction of the runway in Vilnius Airport, which will take place from 14 July 2017 to 23:59 on 17 August 2017, the old runway surface will be replaced, the base will be reinforced, new drainage and rainwater collection systems will be installed and the signal lights control system will be reconstructed.

During the reconstruction of the runway in Vilnius Airport, flights will be moved to Kaunas Airport.

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