Stansted Airport’s Runway Renovation

In order for Stansted Airport’‘s runway renovations to take place, the airport has experienced overnight runway closures since January as a team of engineers works to dismantle and rebuild the runway’s surface. In addition to the runway resurfacing, the team of engineers and technicians have been working to replace runway and taxiway lights.

The runway resurfacing project is a logistical feat three years in the making, and is a five-month project which will see the runway resurfaced, 1500 runway lights replaced with more energy-efficient LED bulbs, and over 60 miles of new cabling laid. The runway was last resurfaced in 2006, meaning its current – soon to be previous – surface will have lasted for 17 years.

stansted runway closure
Stansted Airport’s Runway Renovation: STN’s single runway can operate in either direction, as runway 04 or 22 © Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport’s Runway Renovation

Work began in January, and took place over five nights a week. For eleven weeks, from midnight to 6am between Sunday and Thursday, the runway was closed completely to allow the team of more than 200 engineers and technicians to remove and replace 100m of asphalt each night before recommencing operations promptly at 6am. No closures were in place on Friday and Saturday.

During the period of overnight closures, nearby London Southend airport stepped up to welcome the high load of cargo aircraft redirected from Stansted.

The project has been meticulously planned, with an estimated 440 man-hours to complete all the work.

Stansted Airport's Runway Renovations - an aerial view
An aerial view of Stansted’s terminal and three satellite buildings © Wikimedia Commons

How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Runway?

The UK’s CAA recommends that runways should have a finite life expectancy of around 30 years – depending upon traffic levels. Busy airports such as London Stansted, which sees thousands of commercial, cargo and private aircraft each year, will experience greater levels of wear and tear on the runway’s surface and, therefore, will have a shorter interval between resurfacing.

Stansted Airport’s (STN) runway resurfacing project began three years ago, and this is typical for such an undertaking. Visual inspections and other surveys must be carried out. Before making any firm arrangements, planners must consider both traffic and long-range weather forecasts, as well as considering any other projects requiring runway access and any environmental considerations pertinent to the project.

Once this is in hand, the project planners will need to turn to communication. The CAA, airlines (including air crew), air traffic service providers, emergency services, other aerodromes and airfields in the vicinity, and local committees and residents all need to be informed of the plans so that they can adjust their own operations.

Hazards such as weather – what time of year is the project taking place? – and available runway length – can our expected traffic still operate on the reduced runway? – must also be considered. Risk assessments will take place, and contractors will be chosen. Finally – after an awful lot of paperwork – the project can begin.

The kind of runway closure we’ve seen at Stansted is typical of a rehabilitation or resurfacing project. Stansted is uniquely positioned as it has a runway long enough to be able to operate at a reduced length with sections closed off; however, like most of the UK’s airports, it only has one runway – which means operational management must carefully juggle runway closures with air traffic, as there’s no contingency on-site.

The Situation At Stansted

Now into phase 2 of the project, the runway remains open overnight – albeit at a reduced length – to facilitate continued operation whilst the remaining work is completed. It is expected to be completed by early June. Up to 600 planes are expected to take off from Stansted Airport each day this summer, servicing 190 destinations across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Have you flown into Stansted recently and seen the runway project in action? Let us know!

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Sammie White
Sammie White
A photographer and writer from an early age, Sammie now spends most of her time flying, writing about flying, or sat in traffic on the way to the airport. At Travel Radar she is VP of Content & News, responsible for leading all frontend content teams, including Editorial, Photography & Videography/Production.