New groove in the neighbourhood at Cairns Airport

VIDEO: Cairns Airport Runway Overlay Project - click here.

Grooving of Cairns Airport’s runway took place [over July and August] without tunes, moves or familiar beats, in the final stage of Cairns Airport runway overlay project.

Queensland based company Fulton Hogan completed the final phase of the runway overlay project known as grooving, in a process that cuts small grooves into the asphalt of the runway to improve the friction. In the reverse of cars on roads, aircraft tyres are smooth, and the runway is grooved.

The $18m resurfacing of the runway was the culmination of two years of planning, 59 nights of work and 40,000 work hours. Resurfacing of the runway was done in stages where the team of 90 plus workers and 60 vehicles worked on 150 metres of runway each night, laying a total of 18,000 tonnes of asphalt. 

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Norris Carter said the completion of the airport runway project, done in record time and under budget, was essential to preserving the airports most important asset.

“This is an investment in a critical piece of our region’s infrastructure that will play a vital role in driving the recovery, growth and connectivity for Cairns and the Far North for decades to come.”

“The runway is our primary asset and we’ve made the most of the reduction in flights over the last few months to complete this crucial infrastructure work to ensure we’re ready for the return.”                                                                                                       

As part of the maintenance program Cairns Airport has installed new LED aeronautical ground lighting that has reduced energy consumption and lowered the Airport’s carbon footprint.

Head of Infrastructure at Cairns Airport Alan Dugan said the project had gone like clockwork with the project completed each night in work windows to ensure the airport remained open and accessible.

“Maintaining safe operations at the Airport over this time was critical to the completion of the project and it’s testament to the tremendous partnerships we have with our airline partners and our contractors.”

As a contribution to the local community, new runway grade asphalt from the on-site plant was used to resurface the Cairns BMX Club access road.

The 11,000 tonnes of old asphalt will be recycled to surface internal levee roads around Cairns Airport. 

The final stage of the project, grooving, involved cutting 50,000 slots across the runway surface to provide channels for water to run off. It is an important part of the safety of the runway surface to improve friction, as aircraft come in to land at approximately 200 kilometres an hour.

The completion of the runway overlay project is part of $70m of investment in Cairns Airport in just over two years after the T2 Domestic Terminal upgrade.  Both projects have been funded entirely by North Queensland Airports and our retail partners.


  • Cairns Airport is 3,196m long and 45m wide
  • 90 plus workers and 50 vehicles and machinery were involved in the project each night
  • The new layer of asphalt was poured at 180 degrees
  • Approximately 2% of the old asphalt dug up from our runway is reused into the new asphalt mix that goes back onto our runway
  • Grooving consisted of 50,000 slots cut across the runway surface, proving channels for water to run off the surface, eliminating standing water and maintaining suitable friction levels for aircraft during wet weather. A total of 2,300,000 linear meters of grooving.