Suvarnabhumi airport already tackling 'soft spots'

Suvarnabhumi airport already tackling 'soft spots'

A plane parked at a stand on the apron at Suvarnabhumi airport terminal. Management has assured pilots and passengers that the problem of soft spots on runways, taxi lanes and aircraft stands is being tackled, with immediate, middle and long-term plans in place.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A plane parked at a stand on the apron at Suvarnabhumi airport terminal. Management has assured pilots and passengers that the problem of soft spots on runways, taxi lanes and aircraft stands is being tackled, with immediate, middle and long-term plans in place.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Suvarnabhumi airport management has moved to assuage concerns among international pilots who have warned of dangerous "soft spots" on the taxiways and taxi lanes, saying plans are already in place to deal with the issue.

Maj Kamol Wongsomboon, executive vice president responsible for maintenance, said on Friday the airport realised the importance of tackling problems with the pavement of taxiways and taxi lanes. Short, middle and long-term plans have been prepared to deal with it.  

To ensure runways, taxi lanes and aircraft stands are safe, staff is on stand-by around the clock ready to make quick repairs whenever damaged pavements are discovered, he said.

In the mid-term, existing asphalt used for the pavement would be replaced with a higher quality asphalt to ensure safety, Maj Kamol said. 

Since last year, repairs had been made on taxiways G and C and to taxi lanes T8 and T12. Any pavement found to be damaged would be urgently repaired to ensure it is quickly operational again to prevent problems with flight operations.  

In the long run, portland cement would be used for the pavement. Planning was already underway for the work, Maj Kamol said. Once the design was completed a construction contractor would be hired to do the job. This would help solve the airport’s pavement problems permanently. 

A sub-drainage system was being tested at some troubled pavement spots and if it worked well would be installed at other locations found to have the same problem. 

Maj Kamol said the frequency of cracks being found in the pavement or staff being deployed to make quick repairs has fallen, citing statistics compiled by the airport’s Safety Management System.

To boost confidence in the airport’s safety, a working team has been formed to tackle the problems surrounding taxiways, taxi lanes and aircraft stands, Maj Kamol said.

A stand is a designated area on an apron intended to be used for parking an aircraft.

Maj Kamol said management will also work with other agencies, including Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd, to assess and report the airport's safety. 

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), which represents over 100,000 pilots and flight engineers in almost 100 countries, on Tuesday issued alerts about an ongoing risk to aircraft operations at the airport due to soft ground in the pavement. 

The statement said soft ground conditions, known in the aviation business as "soft spots", have been encountered and reported by flight crews and ground service providers at Suvarnabhumi airport since at least 2008.

The federation has advised airlines to alert flight crews to the existing hazards related to push back and taxi operations at the airport, and to apply appropriate operating procedures to mitigate the associated risks.


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