Queenstown Airport kicks off infrastructure improvements

In November 2015, we started work on an $18 million series of major airfield infrastructure improvements designed to pave the way for evening flights in winter 2016 and improve overall safety and efficiency of operations.

What’s happening between November 2015 and April 2016?

During November, a construction team will begin preparations to widen the airport’s main runway from 30 to 45 metres.  This work will commence in December and then between February and April the whole runway will be resurfaced.

Another project happening at the same time is the installation of new runway, taxiway, apron and approach lights.  Trenching for the required electrical cabling will commence in November. 

Both the runway and lighting construction projects are expected to be completed by April next year. 

The job site and a mobile asphalt mixing plant will be established at the north-eastern end of the runway near Glenda Dr, away from nearby homes.  All of the work except establishing the site and the cable trenching will be done on a night shift basis.  Work will be completed by 5am in the morning in time for the resumption of normal airport operations and there is a planned holiday break from 23 December to 5 January.

The agreement with contracted construction partners Beca and Downer New Zealand stresses the need for them to do everything practically possible to minimise any disruption on neighbouring residents throughout the process. All practicable measures will be taken to keep dust levels to a minimum, lighting towers will be directed away from homes, and the crew will be working hard to ensure any noise and vibration during construction is kept to a reasonable level. 

Project Timeline

Keeping in touch

We will do our utmost to complete the works as efficiently as possible and will keep our neighbours informed of developments throughout the construction process.  We will also post weekly updates.

We have also set up a 24-hour hotline for the duration the project in case there are any queries or concerns.  Please call our Noise Administrator on 03 450 9229 during office hours or call 027 433 5695 between the hours of 6pm and 6am.

Why are we doing these upgrades?

Completing this work will not only give us a more robust, durable runway in all weathers, it will lay the groundwork for us to host evening flights in and out of Queenstown next winter which we believe will be a game-changer for the region.  By introducing flights after-dark during the winter months we will be able to spread our peak times more evenly, unlock more opportunities for passengers to access our region, provide locals with more travel options, and create job opportunities for our community. More than 350 people already work within the airport community and with the introduction of evening flights the whole airport will move to a split-shift model, creating a raft of new job opportunities.

View evening flights video here

Why introduce evening flights?

There has been strong growth in scheduled airline activity at the airport in recent years with the airport’s infrastructure in a virtually constant state of growth and improvement in response to demand from domestic and international travellers. In the 12 months to June 2015, the airport welcomed almost 1.4 million passengers through the gates, up 12 per cent on the year prior, and yet another annual record. Domestic passenger numbers alone tallied over one million for the first time in QAC history.

The international terminal, which opened in July this year, embodies the airport’s recent growth and will facilitate future expansion. The airport is consented for flights between 6am and 10pm but, due to limited airport infrastructure, airlines cannot currently operate to and from the airport outside of daylight hours. 

This constraint, combined with strong demand for direct trans-Tasman services (particularly during the ski season), drives an intense period of mid-afternoon activity in winter as airlines hustle to turn around aircraft before the onset of twilight.  Hundreds of Australian passengers arrive at the airport within a short window (generally 1-4pm), creating a ‘pinch point’ for staff and facilities, while at other times of the day the terminal can be quiet.

What has already been done to manage growth?

To cater for passenger growth and alleviate operational and infrastructure pressure, we have already implemented a range of initiatives to get ‘more out of the terminal’ without compromising the visitor experience.  These measures include:

  • Flexible infrastructure
  • Terminal redesign and expansion
  • Land acquisition
  • Redesign of airspace

With these initiatives in place, the next step for us was to investigate options for more slots and up-gauge aircraft.  This set the context for investigating the possibility of extending operating hours.

More about Queenstown Airport’s Evening Flights Foundation Safety Case

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) took a co-ordinated industry approach to understand risk and feasibility of flying in and out of Queenstown after dark.  In 2012 we formed a working group of technical and operational experts with RNP (Required Navigation Performance) operations and Queenstown-specific experience to prepare a Foundation Safety Case (FSC).

The working group included representatives from QAC, Airways NZ, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Qantas and was facilitated by risk management experts Navigatus Consulting.  Each organisation set aside its specific commercial interests to work towards achieving a common goal – to explore whether flying at night could be undertaken safely and, if so, under what conditions.

The group went through a thorough and collaborative process to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing the safety of operations and options for addressing these.  On 8 May 2013, participants reached unanimous agreement both on the operational visibility of jet operations at Queenstown Airport in darkness and on the preferred infrastructure package and operational enhancements to safely and efficiently extend operations into the hours of darkness.

The main elements of the package include:

  • Widening the runway to 45m (from the current 30m)
  • A comprehensive aeronautical lighting package (including runway, taxiway and apron lights)
  • A bespoke crew selection and training package
  • Employing the full capability of the existing RNP technology
  • Development of current on-board flight procedures to de-peak pilot workload at decision altitude.

On 27 June 2013, the working group submitted its Foundation Safety Case to New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for consideration.  The level of evidence made it the most extensive application ever submitted to CAA.  This was followed by a number of briefings to the regulator to clarify specific aspects.  A similar presentation was given to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in November 2013.

In May 2014, it was announced that the CAA and CASA had approved the Foundation Safety Case, provided that QAC make a series of infrastructure requirements. The imminent construction work will deliver these requirements.

In the meantime, individual airlines are exploring traveller demand for additional evening services to Queenstown and will file their own safety cases to the CAA (and CASA if necessary) in due course.

Weekly project updates

Weekly update #1   11 November 2015

Downer has commenced work on establishing its job site at the north-eastern (Glenda Dr) end of the runway.  Cabling and trenching work has also begun to prepare for airfield lighting. All work is being completed during the day. All neighbours in the Inner and Mid Noise Sectors should have received a letter from the airport providing details of the project.

Weekly update #2   18 November 2015

The job site is now set up and preparatory work is underway for the runway widening and laying of the airfield lighting cables. Gravel is starting to be trucked in to the job site.

Weekly update #3   25 November 2015

Trenching for the lighting cables is now nearing completion (estimated completion next week).  Night works to widen the runway will commence this Sunday 29 November.  This will involve digging out 7.5m outside the existing runway and backfilling it with cement stablised material.  Then it will be covered with a polymer surface ready for operations the next morning.  

Weekly update #4   2 December 2015

Night construction works commenced on Monday 1 December with the dig-out starting at the cross-wind runway and moving east towards the Shotover River each night. The trenching for the lighting cables is continuing during the day.  

Weekly update #5   9 December 2015

Works starting at the western end (lake) of the runway this week and moving east towards the Shotover River by approximately 50m each night. The trenching for the lighting cables is continuing during the day.  

Weekly update #6   16 December 2015

Widening work is progressing at the western end (lake) of the runway and is continuing to move eastwards.  The trenching for the lighting cables is continuing during the day until Christmas.  Works will stop over the Christmas-New Year period from 23 December to 5 January.

Weekly update #7   6 January 2016

Runway widening is progressing well and the western end is completed up to the cross wind runway. The drainage and light trenching is proceeding as well during the day and will be completed next week. The asphalt plant is due to arrive around 10 Jan and will be assembled on-site.

Weekly update #8   13 January 2016

Runway widening is progressing well and the western end is completed.  All one side down to the northern end is completed and work is commencing on the other side.

Weekly update #9   20 January 2016

The asphalt plant is now assembled and testing is underway. Ducting for the lighting system is 50% complete.

Weekly update #10   27 January 2016

400m of widening to go - should be completed by the end of next week!  Pre-overlay runway patching work is due to start next week and full overlay work on 8 Feb. This will involve work initially at the Runway 05 threshold (lake end).
On 27 and 28 January, there were test flights conducted to test the PAPI lights which have been moved into their new positions.

Weekly update #11   3 February 2016

The runway widening has now been completed. Pre-overlay runway patching work is well underway and 50% done. Ducting for the new centre-line lights has commenced.  On track for runway overlay to commence on 11 February. 

Weekly update #12   10 February 2016

The runway widening has now been completed and the overlay commences tonight. The PAPI lights have also been completed and work on the runway and taxiway lights will start shortly. 

Weekly update #13   17 February 2016

The runway overlay is underway with 200m already completed.  The team is averaging about 85m a night.

Monthly update #14   16 March 2016 to date

The runway overlay is progressing at 85m per night down the runway towards the Shotover River and is now in the final phase.  The cross-wind runway has been resurfaced and is fully operational. The lighting programme is following the asphalt crew each night.  The apron lighting is well underway.  Regrading of the runway grass edges progresses in line with the resurfacing each night and the grass is growing nicely!