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June 10, 2010
WHAT do you need to do when you
have an airfield that needs resurfac-
ing?That is the question that regu-
larly confronts Director National
Airfields Projects WGCDR Ron
Tilley and his team from the Defence
Support Group's Infrastructure Asset
In this case, the airfield was RAAF
Base Tindal; its main and emergency
runways and interconnecting taxiways
needed to be resurfaced because the
surface was approaching its end-of-
life and could potentially become a
Foreign Object Damage (FOD) issue.
Also necessary was replacement of
the obsolete emergency runway and
"This was the largest airfield
project we have delivered since the
Directorate was formed in 2004,"
WGCDR Tilley said.
The estimated cost for the works
was about $25 million and was fund-
ed from the Major Capital Facilities
Program. The project was successfully
completed on time and within budget.
To carry out the resurfacing works
several factors had to be considered.
The works required 50,000 tonnes
of asphalt. Most of the material,
including the aggregate, was sourced
from local quarries. However, the
bitumen had to be transported from
The contractor company, Pioneer
Road Services, set up a mobile asphalt
plant on site. It is capable of produc-
ing 300 tonnes of asphalt per hour.
"The weather was a significant fac-
tor," WGCDR Tilley said.
"The work started in early
November last year, which was very
close to the usual start of the wet sea-
son. Fortunately, however, it didn't
start until mid-December."
The paving was completed in
February this year. WGCDR Tilley
said that the working conditions for
the contractors were uncomfortable
with very high humidity and tempera-
tures up to 60 degrees Celsius on the
"I was very impressed with their
performance, with the health and safe-
ty of the workers being closely moni-
tored at all times," he said.
After the paving was completed,
the process of grooving the runway
The process, which involves cut-
ting parallel grooves across the run-
way, is necessary to remove water
from the runway surface, thereby
reducing the danger of aircraft aqua-
planing on take off or landing in the
wet.While this was in progress, airfield
lighting contractors were busy replac-
ing the old lighting. This required 600
fittings and 70km of cable.
WGCDR Tilley said that the works
had operations ramifications beyond
the actual construction and they were
managed by a Method of Working
Plan which set out the work stages.
The runway work was divided
into four sections so that Air Force
and other aircraft based at Katherine
Airport could still operate. The pro-
gram was made easier as 75SQN
deployed for three weeks during late
November and early December, pro-
viding a window of opportunity to
overlay the central part of the runway.
Works Safety Officers were also
employed to ensure the safe move-
ment of vehicles, equipment and per-
sonnel around the airfield.
With the works at Tindal now com-
pleted, the way ahead is a Directorate
responsibility. It has compiled a 10-
year forward program, the Major
Capital Facilities Program, that
includes significant airfield projects
to cover all 25 Defence airfields and
helicopter landing strips. Next year's
program includes RAAF Base Pearce,
HMAS Albatross and the Army
Aviation Centre at Oakey.
Additionally, the Directorate is
responsible for a pavement mainte-
nance program, involving major air-
fields being done every 12 months;
and minor ones every two to three
years. This year's program involves
maintenance at 15 airfields.
WGCDR Tilley said that all
Defence airfields need to be main-
tained and his Directorate is responsi-
ble to ensure this is done.
"Unless these airfields are properly
maintained Defence capabilities could
be impaired with the potential closure
of the airfields," he said.
"Our aim is to minimise the
impacts on flying programs and time-
table (in the case of civilian opera-
tors, including at Joint User airfields
such as Darwin, Townsville and
Williamtown), by being flexible in our
approach and programs.
"To do this, we must liaise closely
with the Service Groups, bases and
civil airport operators, to ensure we do
not program the works during periods
of high flying activity, such as training
or exercises," he said.
HOT STUFF: Asphalt paving work
being carried out by Pioneer Road
Services on the main runway.
Insert, airfield engineers FLGOFFs
Dean Stone and Michael Yeomans
are advised on the asphalt process
by Ross Monteith, a specialist
Photos: courtesy GHD Australia
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