Federal rules likely to call for extended runway ends
By Matthew Robinson, Vancouver SunMay 14, 2011
Officials at Vancouver International Airport are getting creative as they prepare for an expected change to Canadian aviation safety regulations that, if approved, will pose huge challenges.
The rule change being drafted by Transport Canada would require airports to install Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs) extensions designed to help protect aircraft if they leave the runway during a takeoff or landing. But YVR is short of space at the end of two of its runways, and the airport authority would face an expensive and protracted construction effort to meet those new standards.
“It would take a number of years to install these on all of our runways,” said Brett Paterson, YVR’s director of airside operations, on Friday. He added that the construction could cost tens of millions of dollars.
Transport Canada already requires major runways to include 60-metre graded, unobstructed runway strips that act as buffer zones. The department is considering requiring RESAs of at least 150 metres and possibly as much as 300 metres, according to a February notice from Martin Eley, the department’s director general of civil aviation. The latter distance would bring Canada’s regulations in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s recommended best practice.
YVR officials have been aware of the impending rule change for several years and are preparing options.
“This year we have a project underway … looking at how we would accommodate to either go to a 150-metre or 300-metre [RESA],” said Paterson.
According to preliminary YVR analysis, the airport could probably fit a 150-metre RESA within its existing territory, but accommodating the larger RESA could pose some difficulty.
“There’s some potential issues with the 300-metre extension,” he said, referring particularly to the airport’s north and south parallel runways, both of which have limited room to grow on their western ends. The runways are constrained by YVR’s protective dikes and the environmentally sensitive Sturgeon Banks that lie beyond them.
The airport has considered a wide range of options that would not require development beyond the dikes.
Paterson said the RESA requirement does not necessarily mean extending a paved surface past the runway. The airport could rely on an “arresting material” that would absorb energy and help stop an aircraft, should it overshoot the runway.
“The RESA is meant to mitigate the damage,” said Paterson. “If an aircraft is unable to stop in the distance on the runway, there’s a bit of a cushion.”
Paterson said overruns are statistically rare and added that “a lot of effort goes into preventing the event in the first place.
“An initiative we’re undertaking [is] putting in runway distance-to-go signs this year…. They are not a standard in Canada, but they are a best practice.”
Paterson said he was not aware of any proposed changes to passenger fees, should YVR be required to undergo renovations, and added that an RESA would not affect airport noise.
The federal bid to increase RESAs began after a 2005 Air France airliner barrelled off a rain-slick Toronto runway and caught fire.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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