Runway preparations take-off

Cairns Airport’s $18M runway upgrade is off to a flying start in a project that will last for six weeks and ready the airport for the resumption of travel over the coming months as travel restrictions are eased.

The upgrade includes an overhaul and complete resurfacing of the runway and was last done fifteen years ago. It involves the laying of 21,000 tonnes of asphalt sourced from local quarries over 150,000m2. The runway works are being undertaken six nights a week to minimise disruptions with the second phase of grooving to start in July. The project work has been planned to ensure  the airport is  fully operational each day.

The project is part of Cairns Airport’s ongoing investment as part of the airside upgrade that commenced last year, with the replacing of LED aviation ground lighting to reduce electricity consumption.

The runway overlay involves the removal of the top layer of asphalt, replacing it with a high strength pavement. As part of the upgrade 11,000 tonnes of old asphalt will be removed and recycled on the airport’s internal levee roads.

Queensland Company Fulton Hogan who have expertise in runway infrastructure projects were awarded the contract.  Project Manager John Kerrigan said the company was delighted to be playing a role in ensuring the safety and maintenance of such a vital piece of infrastructure for the Cairns community.

‘Upgrading the runway is a complex logistical project and the current period is giving us longer work windows that will reduce the time taken to get the project complete, and that’s a great bonus.’

Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter said the project was an important investment in the future of Cairns Airport and the region’s economy.

‘Our runway has been the workhorse of Cairns since 2005 and has allowed the airport to grow from just over four million passengers a year, to well over five million passengers last year,’ Mr Carter said.

‘More than a million aircraft have taken off or landed on our runway over the past sixteen years and the runway overlay project is an essential investment in the future of Cairns Airport to safeguard operations for the next 15 to 20 years.’

‘Cairns Airport typically handles in excess of 130,000 aircraft movements a year and the runway is one of our most critical assets.  This project will ensure we are well placed to build and grow connectivity for the region,’ said Mr Carter.


  • 21,000 tonnes of asphalt comprising 1,000 tonnes of bitumen and 20,000 tonnes of aggregates
  • Cairns Airport handles in excess of 130,000 flights a year
  • Project duration will be 6 weeks
  • $18M investment
  • Noise monitoring mechanisms are in place
  • The removed asphalt will be environmentally repurposed for our levee roads around the airport