Cleaning rubber off Runway 06-24

Perhaps you noticed a difference in the sky last week: Runway 06-24 was under maintenance. This meant planes landing at and taking off from Schiphol had to be redirected. Runway 06-24 was reopened earlier this week, but why was this maintenance work necessary?

Small maintenance

Runways are taken out of service to receive major maintenance roughly once every seven years. Each of these rounds of maintenance takes up to ten consecutive weeks to complete. During those weeks, parts of the runway are repaved and entire systems are replaced. But, as any home owner will know, small maintenance jobs have to be carried out from time to time as well. In our case, rather than having to deal with leaky faucets and paint-chipped window frames, it’s ‘skid marks’ left by aircraft tyres that need to be scraped off and lighting that needs to be replaced. Given that Runway 06-24 is 3,450 metres long, this takes some doing. So to ensure everyone’s safety, we closed the runway for a week while the work was being carried out.

Skid marks

The work on 06-24 entailed removing ‘skid marks’ from the runway: the black streaks on the tarmac you may have seen from your aircraft window. These streaks are formed by lots of small bits of rubber left by aircraft tyres when a plane brakes after landing. The more rubber there is on a runway, the smoother its surface becomes. And a smooth surface means less traction, which is especially problematic for aircraft taking off or landing in rain or strong winds. That’s why the runways have to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to ensure the continued safety of our travellers. Last week, it was 06-24’s turn.

Removing 6,500 kilograms of rubber

Cleaning up all that rubber is no easy task: the tarmac used to pave runways is much coarser than the material used on roads. One aircraft landing on a fresh layer of tarmac leaves behind around 10 kilograms (!!!) of rubber. As the runway is used more frequently, this amount decreases to around 4 to 6 kilograms per landing. In total, we collected 6,500 kilograms of rubber last week. How? By removing it from the tarmac using high-pressure cleaners and hoovering up the bits of loosened material.

What else?

In addition to cleaning up the rubber, lots of other small maintenance work was carried out last week. Cracks in the tarmac were repaired, the gutters running along the sides were cleaned and the runway markings received a fresh coat of paint. The lighting was also inspected, to ensure that each and every individual light was still up to standard. A number of lights that did not pass the test were replaced.

In short: Runway 06-24 is open and ready for business!