Runway Extension Feasibility Study

 

The Lord Howe Island (LHI) Airport Runway Extension Feasibility Study aims to analyse and evaluate the ‘feasibility’ of extending the runway.

Lord Howe Island Airport Runway Extension – Project update

Background

The QantasLink DHC8-200 currently servicing the island is reaching the end of its serviceable lifespan, and the current route agreement is scheduled to end in March 2022.

The Lord Howe Island Board (the Board) engaged an external consultant, AECOM Australia Pty Ltd, to undertake a Runway extension feasibility study to maintain 30 plus seater air services beyond 2022.  As part of the feasibility study, the Board resolved to undertake the concept design of a runway extension commencing in May 2018, following the assessment of extended runway requirements and suitable aircraft previously completed by AECOM. The concept design looked at items such as design and construction. Potential environmental impacts and costs, if a runway extension was to proceed, are now being investigated.

Over the past few months, geophysical surveys were undertaken. This involved non-intrusive investigations using hydrophones and seismic waves within and surrounding the runway extension footprint site. Environmental due diligence was carried out before the survey.

The survey results have helped understand the estimated depth and nature of materials and bedrock under sea level. It has informed concept designs for both options.

Design options considered

The concept design looked at two options that would support the extension of the runway. The design options are described below.

Deck on Pile Design – recommended

This involves the construction of concrete deck panels supported by reinforced concrete beams and steel pile footings, which have been designed to resist wave energy.

Stormwater drainage pits have been designed to capture oil and sediment to ensure any spills do not flow into downstream drainage.

This option is preferred and the draft Preliminary Environment Assessment (PEA) helped inform this recommendation. This option was preferred as it has less impact on coastal processes, minimises the extension footprint, reduces construction costs and can be delivered in a shorter timeframe.

Land Reclamation Design

This option involves the construction of a raised sea wall made out of rock and concrete. Beyond the sea wall, an absorption mound at sea level would be in place to absorb wave energy and reduce the impact on the extension.

Similar drainage pits and airport operation maintenance would be incorporated in this design as the deck and pile option.

This option will require a large volume of fill to provide a suitable base for the runway extension. The fill would need to be sourced off the Island making it significantly more expensive and increasing project delivery timeframes.

Preliminary Environment Assessment

The project team are currently finalising the Preliminary Environment Assessment (PEA). The PEA is informed by a series of desktop reviews and identifies potential environmental risks and impact of the runway extension options.

The PEA looks at the environmental impacts during construction and operation of the two design options. It also assesses the potential impacts on Lord Howe Island Group (LHIG) World, Commonwealth and State Heritage Listings.

Some of the environmental impacts include:

Heritage

Potential impact to heritage items

Biodiversity and biosecurity

Threatened ecological communities

Surface water

Water quality and oil spills

Air Quality

Diesel fumes

Coastal processes

Altered tidal patterns in the lagoons and sediment deposits

Noise and vibration

Construction noise

 

Contamination

Chemicals and fuels from planes

Landscape and visual amenity

Construction storage and activity

Climate change and flooding

Storm surges, cyclones, periodic flooding

Resource use and waste management

Aviation safety

Social and economic

Community and visitor amenity

 

Traffic, transport and access

Increase in traffic by road and boat

 

Additional requirements for the extension:

The following airfield upgrades will be required to support the future provision of 30 plus seater air services at Lord Howe Island.

Turning Head Extension

This will extend the existing turning head at the south eastern end of the runway allowing a larger aircraft to turn around.

Apron Extension and Taxiway Widening

An apron pavement extension is required to support two DHC-8 400 aircraft. In addition the taxiway would need to be widened, to accommodate for these larger aircraft.

Island Road Alignment

The fence line and road running parallel to the runway would need to be realigned to enable safety clearance for flight operations.

Have your say

We want to hear your feedback and we are interested in hearing what environmental impacts are most important to you and why? We also want to know what other environmental impacts you would like us to consider.

Your feedback will help inform the PEA which will be published in November 2018.

The project team will be available to talk about the environmental impacts of both design options at the following dates and times:

Lord Howe Island Community Hall

Wednesday 3 October

10am-11am and 2pm-3pm

 

Lord Howe Island Bowling Club

Wednesday 3 October

6pm-7pm

We are seeking your feedback from 3 October 2018 to 17 October 2018.

Can’t make the information session? You can provide your feedback via:

Email: administration@lhib.nsw.gov.au  

Postal: Lord Howe Island Board Administration Office, Bowker Avenue/PO Box 5, Lord Howe Island NSW 2898

Phone: (02) 6563 2066 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a runway extension?

Regular air services play a critical role in LHI’s tourism-based economy and are a crucial mode of transport for tourists and the local community to access the Island. LHI needs regular air services to support local tourism and provide residents access to essential services and amenities.

Currently LHI is serviced by QantasLink’s Bombardier DHC-8 200 aircraft which will continue until 2023. However, beyond this, QantasLink may not be economically or operationally able to provide services to LHI using the DHC-8 200 aircraft. The DHC-8 200 is QantasLink’s only aircraft that can currently service the Island and it is reaching the end of its expected 20 year lifespan.

LHI’s restricted runway length of 888 metres limits the type of commercial aircraft that can operate on the Island. While other options have been considered such as leasing or engaging other aircraft to operate on LHI or to get other airlines to operate; without extending the runway, airlines will be restricted in the types of aircraft that can service the Island. 

A sustainable and viable long-term solution is needed to secure the provision of air services to LHI. 

Feasibility study

AECOM Australia Pty Ltd has been engaged to undertake a feasibility study to investigate if a runway extension is possible. 

The study will consider the technical, economic and environmental aspects of the extension, including:

  • determining the extension which could be built in line with safety regulations; physical obstacles that could impact landing and take-off; and width of the airfield

  • identifying aircraft able to land on the possible extension and airlines interested in providing this service

  • the engineering design of the extension

  • environmental and world heritage impact studies

  • the estimated construction cost of the extension

  • the economic benefits of the extension.

LHI has received $450,000 funding from the NSW Government’s Restart NSW – Regional Tourism Infrastructure Program to undertake this study.

Community consultation

The initial report will be made available in a few months for public comment.

We will keep you informed throughout the year as we progress with the feasibility study.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Questions

Answers

Why do we need to do a runway extension feasibility study?

Regular air services play a critical role in our Island’s tourism-based economy and are a crucial mode of transport for tourists and the local community to access the Island. We need regular air services to support the Island’s local tourism and provide Islanders access to services and amenities.

Currently QantasLink’s Bombardier DHC-8 200 aircraft provides flights to the Island and will continue to do so until 2023. However, beyond this, QantasLink may not economically or operationally be able to do so. The DHC-8 200 is QantasLink’s only aircraft that can currently service the Island and it is reaching the end of its expected 20 year lifespan.

The current runway length of 888 metres limits the type of commercial aircraft that can viably operate at our airport. Without extending the runway, QantasLink and other airlines will be severely restricted by the types of aircraft that can provide air services to the Island. 

QantasLink has advised that to accommodate a larger aircraft, such as a DHC-8 300, the runway needs to be extended by up to 400 metres.

We need to start considering our options now for the provision of air services beyond 2023.

What is a feasibility study?

We are carrying out a study to analyse and evaluate the ‘feasibility’ of a runway extension. Can the runway be extended and if so, by how much?

The feasibility study will consider these questions and the technical, economic and environmental aspects of a possible runway extension, including:

  • determining the extension which could be built in line with safety regulations; physical obstacles that could impact landing and take-off; and width of the airfield
  • identifying aircraft able to land on the possible extension and airlines interested in providing this service
  • the engineering design of the extension
  • environmental and world heritage impact studies
  • the estimated construction cost of the extension
  • the economic benefits of the extension.

Who is carrying out the feasibility study?

Our lead consultants AECOM Australia Pty Ltd are working with Astral Aviation and Horton Coastal to carry out the feasibility study.

Together their experience includes runway extensions over water at Wellington Airport, remote island airports in the Solomon Islands, American Samoa, Chatham Islands and Maldives; and environmental work in world heritage sites such as the Great Barrier Reef. 

Who is going to pay for this?

The feasibility study is being funded by the NSW Government’s Restart NSW – Regional Tourism Infrastructure Funding Program to the value of $450,000.

What will be the impact to the environment?

If the runway extension was found to be a feasible option, there would be environmental and coastal impacts. We will carry out environmental assessments and put in place measures to protect the Marine Park; marine ecosystems; flora and fauna; and water quality.

What will be the impact to tourism and Island services?

If the runway extension was found to be a feasible option, it could expand services and tourism opportunities in the future.

Where other options considered?

Yes they were. Other options considered include:

  • Leasing or engaging other aircraft able to operate on the Island

A flight operator could lease DHC-8 200 aircraft from Qantas to operate on the Island. This would be a similar arrangement to that of Norfolk Island. However, within a limited period the DHC-8 200 aircraft would need to end its’ service life. Although this option would work in the short term, it would only delay the investigation and implementation of a long term solution needed for the Island.

  • Get other airlines

There are no other flight operators of the DHC-8 200 in Australia that could provide reliable services to the Island in place of QantasLink. This is coupled with the attractiveness of the Island’s route and the number of passengers it can carry. QantasLink has indicated that demand would need to remain at about current levels of 16,000 people per year or grow.

Extending the runway will have a big effect on the Island, why haven’t I been consulted?

The initial feasibility report on the runway extension is currently being drafted and will be publically available in a few months. When available, we will seek your comments.

We will also keep you informed throughout the year as we progress with the feasibility study.

We encourage you to regularly check the Board’s website as well as the Signal and Community Information Bulletin for updates on the feasibility study.

What is a geophysical survey?

Geophysical surveys are used worldwide as part of marine and land site investigations. These surveys are carried out from a small vessel and are a non-intrusive type of survey, which minimises impacts to the seabed.

These geophysical surveys are correlated with existing data to form an initial understanding of the sediment layers and bedrock.

What is the purpose of a Preliminary Environment Assessment (PEA)?

The PEA provides an overview of potential impacts of the two design options developed for the potential runway extension.

The PEA is based on desktop research to identify potential environmental risks and impacts that is associated with construction and operation of both design options.

Community and stakeholder feedback will be used to inform the final PEA.

Why prepare a PEA and not an Environmental Impact Statement?

The Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) has been undertaken as part of a feasibility assessment of the potential future extension of the LHI Airport runway.

The PEA is an internal document prepared for LHIB and is a preliminary desktop assessment of the potential environmental impacts and opportunities that may be associated with the construction and operation of identified design options. This PEA will be used by Lord Howe Island Board and AECOM to inform decision-making and detailed design for the project.

If the runway extension was found to be the ultimate solution beyond 2022, approvals at both a State and Commonwealth level would likely be required, and to involve the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement as part of any future project applications.

What is the land reclamation design?

This involves the placement of fill material surrounded by a raised rock armour sea wall.

This requires a large volume of fill to provide a base for the runway extension. As fill cannot be sourced from Lord Howe Island, it will need to be imported from neighbouring industrial scale supplies like Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

What does deck on pile mean?

This involves the construction of concrete deck panels supported by concrete beams and steel pile footings.

Why is deck on pile the preferred option?

This option has the least impacts on coastal processes, minimises the extension footprint, and reduces construction costs by up to 40% and the project timeframes can be reduced by 6 months.

Are there any other upgrades required?

Yes. The following airfield upgrades will be required to support the future provision of 30 plus seater air services to Lord Howe Island.

Turning Head extension

  • This will extend the existing turning head at the south eastern end of the runway allowing a larger aircraft to turn around.

Apron Extension and Taxiway Widening

  • An apron pavement extension is required to support two DHC-8 400 aircraft. In addition the taxiway would need to be widened, to accommodate for these larger aircraft.

Island Road Alignment

  • A new road alignment and security fence is required, as defined by obstacle limitation surface (OLS) guidelines. This is required so vehicles and the existing fence line do not impinge on the plane fly over area.

When would construction occur if the runway extension happened? 

It is assumed construction would be phased around existing aircraft flight schedules, and limited to four consecutive days per week. This is a similar approach to the runway overlay project in 2015.

Construction activities would also be limited during the breeding season of certain migratory birds, marine mammals and sea turtles.

How would you ensure the protection of flora and fauna during the construction and operation of the proposed runway?

If the runway extension was found to be the ultimate solution beyond 2022, there would be environmental and coastal impacts. As part of subsequent design stages, we would carry out detailed environmental assessments and put in place measures to protect the Marine Park; marine ecosystems; flora and fauna; and water quality.

Have restrictions on construction been considered for both design options?

High level construction methodologies have been produced as part of the study in order to inform the concept design solutions. An example of some of the items considered are as follows:

Any night works would have strict noise and light spill restrictions Over-water pile driving would not occur at night; however quieter construction activities such as welding, steel fixing and concrete pouring may occur at this time, subject to intensive community consultation;

Vibratory equipment may be required instead of piling hammers as significant underwater vibrations may occur due to pile driving, which could have adverse effects on the marine environment.

How would construction materials be sourced for both design options?

There is no construction material available on Lord Howe Island. Materials will be sourced and brought to the island via air or sea.

The majority of materials would be shipped to the island, they would be brought to sure using the existing wharf or following a similar process as the 2015 runway overlay and barged to the western end of the existing runway.

Would materials be stored on the island?

There are limited onshore areas for storage. Materials may be required to be stored on barges and moored outside the reef until a sufficient portion of the runway extension has been constructed to provide storage.

What am I providing feedback on?

We want to hear your feedback and we are interested in hearing what environmental impacts are most important to you and why? We also want to know what other environmental impacts you would like us to consider.

Some of the environmental impacts in review are:

  • Heritage
  • Surface Water
  • Coastal processes
  • Contamination
  • Climate change and flooding
  • Aviation safety
  • Traffic, transport and access
  • Biodiversity and biosecurity
  • Air quality
  • Noise and vibration
  • Landscape and visual amenity
  • Resource use and waste management
  • Social and economic

This will inform the final Preliminary Environment Assessment, published in November 2018.

I missed out on the information session. How do I provide my feedback?

You can provide your feedback by

Email: administration@lhib.nsw.gov.au

Post: Lord Howe Island Board Administration Office, Bowker Avenue/PO Box 5, Lord Howe Island NSW 2898

Phone: (02) 6563 2066 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm)

We are seeking feedback until October 17 2018.

Where can I go to get more information?

For more information about the project, please call (02) 6563 2066 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm) or email administration@lhib.nsw.gov.au  

Further information

For more information:

Call (02) 6563 2066 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm)

Email administration@lhib.nsw.gov.au

AECOM - Runway Feasbility Study - Concept Design Report PDF 23.7 MB

AECOM - Runway Extension Feasibility Study - Detailed Assessment of Extended Runway Requirements and Suitable Aircraft PDF 33.4 MB

Further information

For more information:

Call: (02) 6563 2066 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm)

Email: administration@lhib.nsw.gov.au

Download: Lord Howe Island Airport Runway Extension Feasibility Study - Fact Sheet PDF 226 KB