Shortly before midnight, following the last arrival/departure at Shannon, a team of 90 vehicles and 70 people roll in for over four hours work on the 3,200m runway – among the longest runways in Europe and one of the designated emergency runways for the Space Shuttle prior to cessation of flights.
By the time they finish and get ready for a ninety minute health and safety inspection – before early morning flights resume – the team will have laid enough asphalt to cover an entire football pitch.
The work, which will see the runway right for the next quarter of a century, commenced in April and by the time it finishes in October, some 50,000 tonnes of asphalt will be laid – equating to 72 football pitches.
Speaking half way through the works, Shannon Airport Operations Director Niall Maloney explained: “It’s quite a complex job because not alone is there a huge volume of work being done but there’s a huge focus on the clock and, particularly, on safety.
"The runway must be open and operational every morning for our first transatlantic customers before 6a.m. To ensure this happens our own dedicated Shannon Airport project team, working with our contractor, take 90 minutes to run all the necessary safety checks before that can happen.
“It’s a well-rehearsed activity by our contractor, Lagan Asphalt. Literally, a chain of vehicles arrive on site as soon as the last flight is processed.
"Planers, tarmacadam trucks, empty lorries, rollers – up to 70 vehicles roll onto the runway for the works every night. By the time we are finished in October we will have a brand new surface that will serve the airport and the region for the next 25 years.”
Thegateway's managing director, Andrew Murphy, says: “The project is part of an overall €20 million plus programme here at Shannon Airport that is focused on works at the terminal building itself to the runway.
"It includes investment at Gates One to Five, at our duty free shop, our new executive lounges and also our sensory room.
“Some of the investment is in essential infrastructure assets like the runway, some in making the airport more aesthetic and pleasurable for our customers.
"But altogether it’s about making sure Shannon Airport is a modern, comfortable airport capable of serving the needs of all our customers and an all-round enjoyable experience for them.”
The airport’s runway, built in 1961, was last fully rehabilitated in 1983 and has under gone regular maintenance over the intervening years.
The current work includes resurface and rehabilitation enhancements to Runway 06/24, including replacement of existing runway lighting and fittings, raising of the drainage channel, reinstatement of the airfield markings associated ducting and other minor site works.