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Paine Field News

Posted on: October 10, 2018

Crews raced weather to reopen main runway

Paving Oct. 3

Rollers compact new asphalt Oct. 3 along the centerline of Runway 16R/34L at Paine Field.


Crews worked nonstop for a week to beat fall rains and restore operations on a 9,010-foot stretch of pavement that is vital to Snohomish County’s economic health.


The main runway at Paine Field reopened on schedule Monday, Oct. 8, after a week-long closure for a repaving project that should ensure safe and reliable operations at the county-owned airport well into the next decade.


Airport engineers, maintenance workers, operations personnel and consultants teamed up with Interwest Construction, Inc. to create a new surface along the runway’s centerline. The plan was developed with input from the Boeing Co.


“I am proud of what the team accomplished,” Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse said. “They understood what was at stake and rose to the challenge.”


The work involved removing asphalt and repaving an area 8,000 feet long by 65 feet wide.


In all,  nearly 14,000 tons of asphalt were milled away and removed. Fresh asphalt was then put down. Crews at times were paving at a rate of up to 400 tons an hour.


The newly repaved area of the runway would stretch roughly 18 miles if it were along a single-lane road instead of down the heart of the runway.


“I’m very happy with the results of this project,” said Ken Nichols, airport engineer. “Everyone came ready to get the job done and adjusted flawlessly when Mother Nature added nearly ½-inch of rain in the middle of the closure period.”


The runway closure started the evening of Oct. 1 and saw crews working around the clock in order to resume service as planned at 7 p.m. Oct. 8.


Paine Field aerospace businesses again began landing planes within minutes of the runway’s reopening.


Because the project was at a working airport, crews had to maintain a constant focus on keeping the runway and surrounding taxiways as clean as possible. The concern was FOD, an acronym that stands for foreign object debris. FOD poses a risk to aircraft, particularly the spinning turbine blades of jet engines. By all reports, the newly repaved runway surface is performing exactly as hoped.


Runway 16R/34L is located on the airport’s west side and is long enough to accommodate the world’s largest aircraft. It gets steady use by aerospace companies, including in support of Boeing’s widebody aircraft programs. The runway is a key reason nearly half of the state’s aerospace manufacturing jobs are located at or around Paine Field -- an economic boon estimated at more than $20 billion each year.


The project was necessary after an oil-based fog seal treatment applied to the runway in July did not perform as expected. In the weeks that followed, there was an unusual amount of loose material on the runway and surface friction numbers intermittently below acceptable levels.


Working in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration and others, airport engineers decided the best course was to create a new runway surface. Construction plans were developed by DOWL. CH2m Hill Engineers, Inc., a subsidiary of Jacobs, provided construction administration and inspection.


The project originally was scheduled for late August, but was delayed by a labor dispute outside the county’s control.


The surface of Runway 16R/34L is grooved to improve traction. Additional night closures are planned in the coming weeks to complete that aspect of the project.


Paine Field Airport main runway project by the numbers:


13,739 tons – The amount of asphalt milled and removed from the runway surface during this project.


400 tons – How much asphalt crews were putting down each hour during paving


18 miles – The equivalent distance in single-lane miles if the project was along a road instead of on a runway.


100-plus – The number of workers out on the job site.


40 – The number of dump trucks working the project. There were more than 100 total pieces of equipment on the project.


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