Four night flights delayed from landing at Queenstown airport due to runway damage

by Peter Newport - Jul 27, 2023

Four flights inbound to Queenstown airport last night were forced to fly in holding patterns while maintenance staff rushed to repair damage to the main runway.

A Crux reader reported one of the flights, Jetstar JQ223 from Sydney, orbiting over Glenorchy for at least 45 minutes last night around 8pm. Flights from Auckland and Christchurch also had to enter holding patterns while the runway repairs were carried out.

Jetstar JQ223 from Sydney, orbiting over Glenorchy yesterday evening, waiting for urgent runway repairs to be completed (Image: Flight Aware).

Queenstown Aiport's chief operating officer Todd Grace issued the following statement to Crux:

Todd Grace says laser scans detected runway damage.

“Four inbound aircraft were delayed from landing by up to 45 minutes on Wednesday night due to unplanned maintenance to Queenstown Airport’s runway. No flights were cancelled and no departures were affected.

“Queenstown Airport has an extensive runway surveillance and examination programme, which includes regular laser scanning to detect early signs of damage, as well as multiple inspections every day. During an inspection on Wednesday night, a small area of delamination was noticed and to be absolutely certain the runway was safe, we chose to repair it immediately.

“Airways, which controls air traffic, was advised the runway would be closed for an hour to allow this work. Airlines were kept fully informed and at no time was safety compromised.

“This situation is rare but not unexpected in an alpine environment where the freeze-thaw cycle can damage runway asphalt. We keep materials on hand to allow immediate repairs.”   

The Crux reader who noticed the circling aircraft estimated that the four delayed flights were responsible for up to 14 tonnes of additional carbon emissions. 

Major safety improvements are planned for the Queenstown runway next year when special safety zones will be built at each end of the runway to prevent aircraft overshooting in the event of an overspeed landing or brake or engine failure. 

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