On 6 September, Palanga Airport will close its gates to passengers and aircraft — construction machinery will begin work on its territory. In just a month and a half, it is planned to upgrade the main infrastructure of the airport aerodrome: reconstruction of the airport runway, taxiway, reconstruction of the existing apron, upgrading the engineering and lighting systems.
As of April of this year, without suspending the airport’s operations, preparations for the reconstruction, which will start at full capacity on 6 September, have been carried out, and the reconstruction will halt the airport’s activities for the shortest period needed — 45 days, until 20 October.
During these works, the airport will be closed and flights will not be available. After the reconstruction works are completed in October, Palanga Airport will resume its work and all flights will continue as normal. The remaining reconstruction works will be carried out until 2 December 2021 and the processes will take place while the airport is in operation.
Optimal time selected
Dainius Čiuplys, Head of the Operations and Infrastructure Department of Lithuanian Airports, informs that the most optimal period has been chosen for the reconstruction of the airport, when the peak vacation period ends and passenger traffic drops.
“We could not postpone the reconstruction because the runway’s operating cycle has come to an end and, in order to ensure proper aviation safety, it would have entailed a disproportionate investment in short-term repairs that wouldn’t solve the problems,” explained Mr Čiuplys.
A runway’s service life usually ranges from 10 to 15 years. At Palanga Airport, the last repair of the runway was carried out in 2007.
“The airport has already had problems not only with its runway surface covering, but also with other technical aspects, such as malfunctions of the signalling light system, poor operation of the rain drainage system, which is very important at the airport,” said Mr Čiuplys.
Taking into account the international practice of the supervision of aerodromes and the passenger flows at Palanga Airport, the first half of autumn was selected for closure of the airport, a time when passenger traffic usually decreases, so temporary disruption of operations would be least detrimental for both airport operations during the aviation recovery period and passenger comfort.
According to representatives of Lithuanian Airports, it was not possible to avoid the closure of the seaside airport for this general renovation, as there is only one runway at Palanga Airport, and carrying out such works in phases while the airport is still in operation would be too risky.
What will change?
“The biggest changes will likely remain unnoticed by passengers, but after the reconstruction the airport will become not only safer, more convenient, but also more environmentally friendly, because part of the reconstruction works will be related specifically to environmental requirements”, said Mr Čiuplys.
Armands Svikis, COO of the Latvian company A.C.B., which will perform the main works of the airport contracting, tells us that the main focus of the reconstruction is the overhaul of the runway surface covering, during which not only the asphalt layers will be replaced, but also the deeper layers of concrete, crushed stone. They will not only be upgraded, but also made thicker, so that the runway meets the latest requirements for airports. A completely new system for collecting surface waste water and a signal light system will also be installed.
The contractor will reconstruct the runway, which is nearlt 2.3 km long and 60 m wide, including newly constructed lateral edges that improve runway safety.
“Although construction works on a very large scale are expected to take place 24 hours a day due to tight deadlines, the population should eventually feel a minimal impact of the reconstruction. Efforts will be made to limit noise during the night and, in order to protect against dust, we will regularly water bulk materials,” noted A. Svikis.
About 170 thousand m2 of old coating will be dismantled during the project. A total of 83 thousand tonnes of asphalt mixtures, 190 thousand tonnes of minerals, and 800 tonnes of concrete will be used to upgrade the infrastructure. The amount of concrete is relatively low, as all the coatings of the airport are based on asphalt blends.
The website of Palanga Airport has a page specifically designed for this project; here you can find all relevant information about the project, its progress, answers to questions and contacts: www.palanga-airport.lt/en/reconstruction