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Frankfurt Airport’s Runway 18 West Gets New Asphalt Surface as Part of Necessary Maintenance Procedures


Runway 18 West to be closed from May 22 to 26 – Surface and binder course need replacing on a regular basis – Latest GPS technology used

Runway 18 West is receiving a new asphalt surface and binder course as part of necessary maintenance procedures. The maintenance work is scheduled to take a period of five days to be complete. As is also the case on heavily used freeways, the fourteen-centimeter-thick asphalt surface needs replacing regularly as a result of normal and weather-related wear. Based on current planning, use of Runway 18 will be restricted from May 22 to 24 as the maintenance work is carried out. On these days, the runway will only be available for intersection takeoffs. Shortening of the runway by 1,250 meters will mean that only twin-jet aircraft will be able to take off from Taxiway S. The runway will be closed completely on May 25 and 26. The plan is to have Runway 18 back in operation again from May 27 at 5 a.m.

The maintenance operation is a daunting engineering challenge. Over the course of five days, a surface of around 44,000 square meters – roughly corresponding to the size of five soccer pitches – will be renewed. Around 30,000 metric tons of asphalt will be moved over the course of the operation. The maintenance work will involve some 100 workers in multiple shifts. The maintenance work will also include replacement of the entire lighting system of Runway 18 West – comprising roughly 600 surface and underfloor lights – with energy-saving, long-lasting LED lights.

It will be the first time in Germany for an operation of this kind to use six state-of-the-art milling machines. These machines work with a new 3D control technology to mill off the asphalt courses using GPS-assisted positioning instead of optical surveying tools. This technology is able to mill off even the tiniest imperfections with the utmost accuracy.

A demanding project of this nature requires intense and lengthy pre-planning. As such, the project was already taken into account during seasonal pre-planning and a period identified with relatively lower air traffic volumes than in the preceding and following weeks of the summer flight schedule. Close coordination between the airlines, the relevant government agencies and DFS German Air Navigation Services meant that the flight schedule and operational processes for this phase were planned intensively in advance.

Despite the intense pre-planning, changes to the use of the runway during the maintenance work may also result in disruptions to flight operations and isolated cancellations. Frankfurt Airport therefore recommends that passengers check the status of their flight on the airport’s website or with their airline before traveling to the airport and allow some extra time for their journey.

Fraport is asking the Hessian Ministry of Transport to suspend the so-called noise-respite regulations for Frankfurt Airport (during the early-morning and late-evening hours) for the duration of the maintenance work, since the full availability of existing runway capacity is required to implement that regulation.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.