How new runway was designed to take extra load
AN INCREASE in freight volumes since coronavirus has left Sunshine Coast Airport executives confident they can fill the bellies of aircraft using the new runway.
Reports have been received of freight volumes increasing "significantly" in Cairns during the pandemic, and across other major airports - largely due to demand for fresh Australian produce and medical equipment and prescriptions coming back into the country.
The online shopping boom had also driven freight demand.
Work is fast approaching completion on the new runway, with four bays once again to be opened by the end of the month.
Sunshine Coast Airport expansion project director Ross Ullman said the concrete apron for larger aircraft was set to be finished by late-November or early-December, while the new runway was set to be commissioned on June 14.
Mr Ullman said the new asphalt strip could cater to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft weighing up to 50 tonnes fully loaded.
He said the new concrete apron would cater to larger, Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 planes, which weighed up to 220 tonnes fully-loaded.
Mr Ullman said the new apron would be made up by pouring concrete a depth of about a metre, to provide the strength required.
Once final links were created to the existing runway, he said the full length would reach about 2800m, which would enable Code E aircraft to fly with almost 100 per cent loads.
He said the average lifespan of the tarmac was eight to 15 years, although a new grooving system implemented was hoped to extend the life of the runway, with self-cleaning grooves.
A total of 70,000 tonnes of asphalt, 50km of cabling and 400 lights were being used on the new strip, which would deliver about 50 per cent extra width compared to the previous runway.
The new runway had settled for about nine months before the tarmac was laid, and Mr Ullman said it had settled about half a metre in the northwestern end.
He said the new alignment would allow light aircraft to operate more safely, as crosswinds would be reduced.
Light aircraft would able to take off from either direction, with a midpoint established so they could filter in between larger aircraft.
Emergency flights would continue to be given priority.
The freight precinct was set to be included in the gateway precinct, although it had initially been planned for the northeastern side of the runway.
Community feedback on concerns about heavy vehicle movements on David Low Way to service the precinct had prompted the shift, although the precinct could still end up in its original position, if an internal road network could be created to service the freight hub.