Roading feature: Runway success

Runway success Nine-thousand tonnes of asphalt was required for the job Runway success
Runway success Runway success
Runway success A total of five rollers were on the move at any one time Runway success
Runway success Runway success

An extraordinary project demands an extraordinary commitment, from both men and machine. When Higgins Contractors took on a paving job like no other, it looked to Wirtgen New Zealand to supply the technology and reliability to help get the task done.

Most of us would agree an airport is a busy piece of real estate at the best of times. Imagine, then, being tasked with milling and resurfacing an entire 1.3km-long main runway and an additional 235m taxiway — all while the airport in question remains fully operational.

This colossally-complex undertaking isn't some worst-case-scenario nightmare dreamed up by a project management strategist for the classroom — it's the real deal. It was completed right here in New Zealand. And what's more, the men and machines tasked with the job got it done despite massive logistical challenges and an incredibly restrictive time-frame.

Even before Higgins Contractors arrived on site at Hawke's Bay Airport in Napier, to begin the removal of existing open graded asphalt surfacing from the runway and subsequent dense graded hot mix replacement work, a massive amount of fine-tuning was required for this particular paving job.

Being the only airport in the Hawke's Bay region to service flights on Air New Zealand's national Link service meant Higgins would only be able to work at night. Of course, with aircraft typically still using the runway up until 9.30pm — and sometimes as late as 11.00pm — in reality the night shift often couldn't swing into gear until the wee small hours.

With scheduled flights due to depart early in the morning and the requirement that Higgins have all plant and work lights off the runway, as well as the runway swept for foreign object debris (FOD) by 6.00am each day, the window of opportunity to get the job done was tight.

In all, over the course of five-and-a-half weeks, 26 separate shifts worked the runway and taxiway areas to get rid of the severely cracked and ravelling-open graded asphalt and replace it with the new material. A total of 9000 tonnes of asphalt was required to be produced for the job: roughly equating to half the normal annual asphalt production for Hawke's Bay in less than two months.

So, a colossal project for Higgins. But a colossal project for Wirtgen New Zealand, too, which supplied a comprehensive line-up of milling machines, pavers and rollers for the project.

"It's not often you see such an extensive selection of gear from across the brands on one project at one time," says Richard Seay of Wirtgen New Zealand. "But the Hawke's Bay Airport runway resurfacing work was a pretty harmonious opportunity for us, and a reflection of the on-going relationship we have with Higgins."

In addition to two state-of-the-art Wirtgen W130F milling machines brought in for the precise surface rehabilitation work, two universal class Vöegele pavers were also required on site. The Vöegele 1600-2 and 1603-2 are both members of the Super Series range — the former tracked, the latter wheeled, and each boasting a 7-8m pave width and a maximum laydown rate of 600t/h.

The project demanded a highly concentrated level of compaction work in the short spaces of time open to the team, so a total of five Hamm rollers — including HD75 and HD90+ articulated tandem rollers and rubber-wheeled GRW 280 static rollers — were called upon. Often all five rollers were on the move at a single moment.

Continues Seay, "A project of this magnitude required a number of things to go to plan. A key element in this was the products supplied and supported by Wirtgen New Zealand.

"We ensured the contractor had suitable resources available to get the job done to schedule. It was critical for Higgins to have the assurance that all the plant they needed to produce the end result could be relied upon night after night."

The finished paved product is proof enough of the attention to detail required of such a project as the Hawke's Bay Airport Runway 16-34 Resurfacing. But if anyone needs further evidence of both the scope and success of the project, the company was a finalist in the New Zealand Contractors Federation Hirepool Construction Awards 2013 for its work in Napier.

Seay is proud of how his brands, under the Wirtgen Group banner, performed throughout the intensive five-and-a-half weeks of work.

"This was a project where synchronisation of work and the reliability of the machinery — within the demands of continual night-shift operations — were paramount. It was the perfect test and Wirtgen certainly came through."

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