Thursday 13 March 2014
Work is underway at Alderney Airport to improve ground conditions and restore at least one of the grass runways and the main asphalt strip to full operation by the summer.
Grass and airfield experts have been to the island to inspect the condition of the runways, and identify remediation measures. This includes work to repair the long grass runway, which was closed due to severe waterlogging and general surface deterioration late last year.
The grass edges of the main asphalt runway, which were taken out of operation earlier this year due to waterlogging, have also been fully inspected.
Work is also planned on the short grass runway, which was closed on the advice of the Channel Island aviation regulator in 2013 due the poor condition of the surface.
Part of the remediation plan is to aerate the soil and reduce the compaction, which has arisen due to the frequent and long standing use of these grass areas. This will be done by making deep incisions, to improve drainage and enable the soil structure to recover more naturally.
The airport has purchased a special machine required to make these deep incisions, and a new harrow. The existing tractor is also being fitted with specialised groundkeeping tyres, to ensure it does not cause further damage to the grass areas. The new equipment, which has cost around £25,000, will begin to arrive in the island this week.
Soil samples have also been taken and sent to the UK for laboratory analysis to determine its composition. This will help to refine the treatment process, including the requirements for nutrients and reseeding.
Most of the remediation work will be carried out by Alderney Airport Fire Service, and staff have been given preliminary guidance on the proposed ground maintenance programme. A more detailed regime is also being developed to ensure the long-term upkeep of the grass areas.
Airport director Colin Le Ray said a lot of resources had been focused on addressing the condition of the runways.
'Our grass expert is extremely confident that we can address the issues and return the grass areas to a surface suitable for use by aircraft. A programme to schedule the immediate rehabilitation requirements and soil treatment, and then merge these with into a regular and ongoing maintenance regime, is now being drawn up,' he said.
In addition to all the repair works, the project to address the long-term maintenance of the runway facilities at Alderney Airport is also progressing. A new Project Board has been formed to oversee these permanent works, and met for the first time in February.
Project Board Chairman, Deputy Scott Ogier, said the Public Services Department appreciated the importance of Alderney Airport to the island.
'The Airport management have committed a lot of time and resources to addressing the current situation in Alderney. We are very confident that the situation will improve to an extent that the operational restrictions can be removed and flying to and from the island will return to normal fairly soon,' he said.
'Looking longer term, we are also working very closely now with Alderney on plans to address the wider maintenance requirements at the airport. We recognise its importance, and the contribution it makes both to the community and the local economy, and very significant investment is now planned to ensure the airport remains fit for purpose in the future, to the benefit of both our islands.'