The runway at RAF Brize Norton was showing signs of wear and tear. Craig Marshall, commercial manager at preservation firm ASI Solutions and Paul Hancock, operations director of Allied Infrastructure, explain the work they undertook last August to slow down weathering and ravelling of the famous Oxfordshire runway

The work at Brize Norton was the largest Rhinophalt project ever undertaken on an airfield 
Allied Infrastructure

Q What know-how gained on other projects was especially useful in completing the work on this runway? 

Paul Hancock (PH): It is so important with large projects like this that you constantly try to drive efficiencies to help deliver a better service. Sometimes it is the small things that make a difference. A good example was our decision to change from IBCs [Intermediate Bulk Containers] to bulk tankers, which reduced the number of fills of the product during the scheme and thus the overall time it took us to complete the project. We also protected our tanker by transporting it on a low-loader to avoid any damages or issues resulting from potential damage in a road traffic accident. For Brize Norton, we also introduced a new way to mask the airfield markings.

Craig Marshall (CM): This was the largest Rhinophalt project undertaken on an airfield, anywhere in the world, so it certainly took some planning. Given the size, we had so much to be proud of. Brize Norton provided a platform for creative and innovative application techniques. Transparent dialogue between both parties ensured smooth operational delivery, as did having a single point of contact with the client.

PH: The continued up-skilling of staff, who train on a live airfield at Blackpool Airport, has made us more effective, more flexible and better able to finish jobs faster while still delivering quality.

Q What were the main challenges of this project?

CM: An airside compound incorporating welfare facilities was initially set up for the storage of all Rhinophalt, Rhinodust, line marking paint, plant and equipment. Due to the large volume of materials required, however, we couldn’t store everything on-site. This meant that we had to undertake daily monitoring of the ordering and delivery of materials. This was key to the project’s success.

PH: Working in and around a busy live airfield was challenging in itself. We had to be as flexible as possible with working window times, which often meant we had to move off a runway or taxiway within a short space of time. This was made easier for everyone by implementing an operational meeting before every shift. All of our operatives were aware of the emergency procedures and had constant radio contact with the control tower.

CM: Another challenge was the weather. As a result, we implemented several shift patterns, including twilight and night shifts. One of the benefits of Rhinophalt is that it can be easily applied at night or day and with minimal disruption. Unlike other treatments, it cures really quickly, meaning runways and taxiways can be open in less than four hours and in ideal conditions, in as little as 30 minutes.

Q How did you fit your work around the flight schedule?

PH: Generally, the works on the runway took place during flight embargoes on Friday and Saturday nights between 7pm and 7am. We were able to make the works on the taxiway more fluid and flexible, taking place during weekday day shifts of 8am-5pm on areas agreed with the base at a daily start-of-shift meeting. We were only allowed one section of taxiway at a time due to operational requirements, and some areas where the road and taxiway are on the same alignment required night shift working due to the volume of air and road traffic. After each shift the runway and taxiways had to be returned to operations, so FOD [foreign object debris] management was key. A logging in and out of all items removed from each van was undertaken.

Q How much Rhinophalt and Rhinodust did you apply?

PH: With more than 458,000m² area to cover, 229,000 lit of Rhinophalt and 115 tonnes of Rhinodust were applied. This is the most product we have applied on any airfield project to date.

Q Why is Rhinophalt considered to be sustainable?

CM: Airport asset managers consider asphalt preservation on runways, taxiways, aprons and access roads a key maintenance solution. Rhinophalt extends the operational life of the asphalt surface, helping meet airport operators’ sustainability aims as it can deliver more than 90% in carbon savings compared to resurfacing. The technique also allows the original aggregates in the asphalt to be kept in place while fortifying the bituminous mortar. This delays the need for costly resurfacing and optimises airside availability. Rhinophalt contains Gilsonite, a natural asphalt, a mineral antioxidant and a key component in preventing asphalt deterioration caused by oxidation of the bitumen. Gilsonite resin is much harder than bitumen – it is an antioxidant that reinforces, seals and strengthens the surface course and slows down asphalt ageing. Sustainability through preservation conserves valuable mineral resources and fossil fuel binders.

All operatives on the project were made aware of emergency procedures at Brize Norton 
Allied Infrastructure

Q What are the other main benefits of Rhinophalt?

CM: Rhinophalt also significantly reduces FOD caused by surface ravelling, as well as helping with post-rubber removal. Re-lining can be applied in the same shift, and it can be used on shoulders only to reduce the areas that are to be resurfaced.

Q What can we expect from Allied Infrastructure in 2021?

PH: We are expecting another busy year working with ASI Solutions in the airport sector, with a strong pipeline of tenders, as well as an increasing amount of work in other sectors and extensive work across Europe.

Q What can we expect from ASI Solutions in 2021? 

CM: We will continue to build our profile within the airport sector. Although there are limited flights at the moment, the asphalt infrastructure on runways and taxiways continues to deteriorate, especially after more severe weather, and now is the ideal time for airport operators to consider asphalt preservation to help arrest that deterioration. It is important to ensure that runways are in good shape and ready to handle the increase in traffic that we expect when travel restrictions are eased.

The project used

The planners used twilight and night shifts to accommodate the changeable British weather 
Allied Infrastructure