Onwards and upwards at airport


Queenstown’s balmy summer has helped keep the airport’s costly infrastructure upgrade on schedule.

The fast-growing airport is widening its runway and installing lights before controversial night flights begin in July.

Airport operations boss Mike Clay says contractors Downer NZ and Beca had two weeks of contingencies for bad weather but they’ve ended up losing just one day.

“We’re on track,” he says, for an early April finish.

The work - valued at $18 million, up $1m on a November announcement - has just reached a major milestone: the runway widening from 30 metres to 45m is now done.

Tonight contractors embark on the next phase - a 110mm-thick asphalt runway “overlay”.

An 80mm thick overlay was done in 2010. However, rutted sections of runway - chewed up by skyrocketing traffic, heavier planes and no parallel taxiway - were patched last year, after pilots raised concerns.

Clay says the new overlay will last up to 10 years.

The runway will be grooved to help drain water and reduce the chance of ice forming.

The cross-wind runway will be temporarily shortened.

Airways NZ’s service delivery boss Paul Fallow says with new lighting and advanced flight procedures, airlines flying into Queenstown will have one of the most sophisticated air navigation control systems in the world.