Located approximately 5km south of the Windhoek CBD, Eros Airport is a hub for business travel and tourism, managing around 150 to 200 movements a day. According to Namibia Airports Company (NAC) “In 2016, Eros Airport handled an incredible 74 356 passengers and 17 620 aircraft movements from commercial, private, and scheduled traffic ranging from high performance jet aircraft to Cessna 201 aircraft which is the most commonly used aircraft for charter and fly-in safaris in Namibia.” Eros Airport is also a secondary hub for Air Namibia, home to the Namibian Aviation Training Academy, and, until recently, welcomed the Presidential Fleet.
In January 2017, Lithon Project Consultants (Pty) Ltd was awarded the contract for detailed design, tender documentation, site supervision and contract administration for the rehabilitation of Eros Airport and associated facilities, which included inter alia the main and secondary runways, taxiways, existing apron and apron extension. The rehabilitation would also include compliance work to ensure that the airport infrastructure meets the latest aviation and ICAO standards. Here’s a look at the project to date.
Built in 1956, the runway at Eros Airport was originally designed for 15–20-seater planes, rather than the faster, heavier jet-engine planes that now land and take off from its two runways. With the average life expectancy of an asphalt runway being about 20 years, both the main and secondary runways – now more than 60 years old – were displaying some serious signs of distress and end of design life expectancy thus requiring urgent attention to ensure the safety of aircraft and passengers.
In early 2017, Lithon was tasked with assessing the state of the runways and associated infrastructure and making rehabilitation recommendations for a way forward. The Embraer ERJ-135, a twin-engine jet operated by Air Namibia and with a capacity of 37 passengers, was the critical design aircraft for the project. Lithon was also asked to accommodate the Presidential Dassault Falcon 7X in its solution.
At the outset of the project, the Lithon team, under the leadership of Richard Laborn, together with a crew of aviation and pavement specialists, investigated the runways, taxiways and existing aprons at Eros Airport to assess their remaining design life and stability.
A visual as well as technical pavement assessment, conducted during the six-month-long investigation, revealed that the surfacing and pavements of both runways, main apron and taxiways were old, dry and brittle and that the pavements had reached their end of design life, confirming that rehabilitation of the runways, taxiways and apron was an urgent necessity.
During the course of the investigation, after certain compliance issues were raised, Lithon was tasked with bringing Eros Airport in line with international aeronautical standards. The investigative process also identified a need to expand the existing apron in order to accommodate an increase in traffic to the airport and allow for the arrival and departure of a larger volume of air traffic. This expansion would formalise an efficient aircraft parking stands arrangement, accommodate helicopter parking requirements and accommodate the Presidential jet.
With the increase in project scope, following the outcome of the investigation, it was necessary to find an interim solution until such time as the required rehabilitation works could be approved. On 10 August 2017, Lithon Project Consultants was instructed by the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT) to investigate an interim solution that would:
Work on the holding action officially began on the 5th of August 2020, with NAC Spokesperson Dan Kamati explaining in an article for the Windhoek Observer, “These short-term works will address the bumpy runway and potholes which have developed over the years. This remedial work will carry the runway for about three to four years.” Specialist equipment required for the milling and construction of the new asphalt surface was shipped in from South Africa.
Ahead of the commencement of the project, two key challenges were anticipated by the Lithon team.
With the airport remaining operational during daylight hours throughout the construction period, the only available solution is for work to be undertaken during the night. And, given that the airport closes each evening at 9pm and reopens at 6am, this leaves the Lithon team with just six hours, six days a week, in which to move equipment and materials into and out of the site and complete the required work.
Keeping the airport fully operational means that all work set out for the night shift must be entirely completed during that shift so that the airport is ready to resume operations the following morning. This also includes repainting existing runway markings at the end of each shift and before the airport reopens to ensure that adequate visual guidance is provided for aircraft at all times. The work for the holding action is expected to take six weeks to complete.
The full rehabilitation works of the complete Eros Airport project is expected to take 18–24 months to complete. For the latest updates on this and other Lithon projects, please keep an eye on our social media platforms.
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