The maintenance operation of Frankfurt Airport’s (FRA) Center Runway was completed on schedule during the night from Wednesday to Thursday this week. In just 72 hours, the four centimeter thick asphalt surface was removed and replaced with a new layer – a total volume of 80,000 square meters. In addition, 300 halogen lights, marking the touchdown and centerline areas, were replaced with energy saving and durable LED lighting.
Due to intense preplanning prior to the operation and the close coordination between DFS German Air Navigation Services, airlines and government agencies, disruptions and flight cancellations could be largely avoided during the runway maintenance closure. To maintain flight operation, despite lack of runway capacity, general aviation aircraft (GAA) were not permitted to land at FRA during the maintenance, thus contributing to an overall reduction of air traffic.
Unfavorable weather postponed the maintenance operation for one week. Originally, maintenance was planned for August 9 but actually started on Sunday, August 16. Due to civil engineering requirements, the maintenance was carried out during the summer months with their more consistent weather conditions and higher temperatures required both for the application of new asphalt layer and the embedding of the runway lighting system.
A spokesman of Fraport AG, the owner and operator of Frankfurt Airport, said: “We are most satisfied that flight operations remained largely unaffected by this maintenance measure, to the benefit of our passengers. Simultaneously, we are now relieved to once again have all four runways fully operational. With the necessary replacement of the asphalt surface, we are able to ensure smooth operation of our Center Runway for the coming years.” This operation was a daunting logistical challenge. Within three days (and nights) a surface corresponding to the size of ten football pitches was renewed. Around 20,000 metric tons of asphalt were removed and replaced – weighing almost the same as 16,000 Volkswagen Golf cars. Some 100 workers in multiple shifts were involved. The costs – in a low single-digit million euro range – remained well within budget.
In the first phase (carried out during the night from Sunday to Monday) the maintenance consisted of removing the old surface. This was followed by a thorough cleaning and sweeping of the surface, after which a retentive coating was applied. This formed an essential basis for the asphalt layer. From Monday to Tuesday, the new asphalt layer was applied in sections. Once a section had cooled sufficiently, the ground markings and new runway lighting could be installed. At 2 a.m. on Thursday, August 20, the traffic and project management gave its official clearance after a final inspection of the Center Runway. Punctually at 5 a.m., traffic commenced to full operational capability. In the course of the next 4 to 5 weeks minor additional work will be carried out between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., mainly on the runway lighting system.