Naia runway pothole ruins flight skeds
A total of 27 flights, mostly international, were affected on Tuesday after the main runway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) had to be shut down for hours to have a pothole immediately repaired.
Due to safety concerns, Naia’s primary runway—06—was closed shortly past 1 p.m. for emergency repairs, which officials said could not wait until the regular daily maintenance hours of 1:30 a.m. up to 3:30 a.m.
At 4 p.m., airport personnel finally finished patching up the pothole measuring 2 meters by 2 meters. By then, however, nine domestic and international flights had been cancelled while 11 flights were diverted to Clark International Airport. Seven other flights were delayed.
Among the canceled flights were Philippine Airlines PR 720 (Manila to Heathrow), PR 432 (Manila to Narita), PR 408 (Manila to Kansai), PR 2033 and PR 2034 (Manila-Busuanga-Manila), Cebu Pacific 5J 971 and 5J 970 (Manila-Davao-Manila), and Cebu Pacific 5J 575 and 5J 576 (Manila-Cebu-Manila).
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) general manager Ed Monreal said that only wide-bodied aircraft, mostly used in international flights, were affected by the three-hour closure of the main runway.
Meanwhile, Runway 13/31 remained open to smaller aircraft, mostly domestic flights.
“This pothole [was discovered] today in the course of flight operations. I ordered an emergency repair, disrupting our operations at this time of the day [rather] than wait for our daily runway closure after the last flight tonight,” Monreal said.
Around noon, a Cebu Pacific flight reported loose asphalt on Runway 06, prompting an inspection which led to the discovery of the an “S-shaped” pothole, he added.
Monreal admitted that the closure of the main runway was abrupt, but explained that “first and foremost, safety was very much taken into consideration. It was closed because of the safety issue posed by the runway condition.”
The prevailing wind at the time the pothole was discovered was mostly for Runway 06. “It was a critical area so we needed it repaired instead of later on having problems,” he pointed out, adding that extreme heat and water seepage could have weakened the asphalt.
Monreal said that the last asphalt overlay was done in 2012 or 2013. Although the life span is supposed to be seven or eight years, an asphalt overlay has already been designed and planned for the first quarter of the year.
“What we plan to do is really dig deep and lay the asphalt thick particularly on the portion of the runway aligned with the aircraft wheels, 30 meters both sides of the runway,” he said, adding that the asphalt overlay would be done in stages.
Apologizing to the public for the inconvenience, Monreal said: “I really had some safety concerns. I didn’t want to sacrifice aircraft and passenger safety.”
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