Five months of work resurfacing Stansted’s single runway has been completed two weeks earlier than scheduled. More than 200 engineers and technicians worked 22 weeks of night shifts to make sure the airport’s the 1.9 mile long runway could be fully resurfaced as quickly as possible and with minimal disruption ahead of a busy summer season.

During just six working hours a night, the teams had to remove and replace 100 meters of runway surface in order to be ready to safely reopen on a strict deadline each morning. The runway was also upgraded with new airfield ground lighting cables, new paint markings, a new drainage system and 700 energy-efficient LED runway lights.

Usually handing up to 50 aircraft movements an hour, the scale of the £34 million project was hugely complex and coordination and good lines of communication were essential to ensure a seamless transition from full runway operations to reduced distance ops and full runway closures each night. It didn’t come without its challenges and pressures from the airlines and airport in ensuring disruption was kept to a minimum.

Closing the Runway

To undertake the work, the runway needed to be closed and reconfigured to a reduced length. For this to be successful, there was close coordination between the air traffic team in the tower, London Terminal Control, which manages flights in and out of the airport, and the airport operations team before and up to the scheduled closure.

One Watch Manager, James Hansford, discussed their experience during the planned work:

During the night shift, what I noticed as Watch manager, was how everyone got involved, making sure airfield information was accurate and placed in good time, maps being created on the ground movement radar to accurately reflect the closures on the airfield (it wasn’t just the runway that was affected, major portions of the taxiway network would be closed to accommodate the vehicles which would be queued in preparation). But the biggest and best change was the TRM on watch. We were all looking out for each other, including myself to make sure whoever was plugged in was comfortable with the traffic they had and that nothing had been missed.


The details of the work that night, as well as the wind direction and more, were weighed up to identify which runway direction would be used for the reduced distance. It was also imperative that the airport closed and re-opened on time, meaning that those on radar in Terminal Control had to do their best to safely get as many flights in as they could before the cut-off. This was further complicated by challenging weather early on which had the potential to derail plans if the teams involved had not been so coordinated and dedicated to completing this monumental task.

The project was a great success due to the tremendous teamwork from all of those involved to complete the work successfully and safely. To reopen ahead of schedule for the busy summer ahead is a fantastic achievement.


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