RS&H paves the way for construction of “lifeline” runway repairs on Ascension Island
Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island that capitalizes on its strategic location for both the United States Air Force and the United Kingdom Royal Air Force. In the remote area, this shared runway has been described as the “lifeline to the island” for both economic and logistical purposes, serving as an airbridge between the United Kingdom and the Falkland Islands. Additionally, the airfield serves a unique mission of supporting space launch, surveillance, and operations for the United States and the United Kingdom.
Regular air service from the Airbus 330-200 contracting the island was halted in 2017 due to the disrepair of the runway. Air service in the interim was provided bi-monthly by smaller planes with less capacity. This essential project enabled continued support of the United States Space Force mission consisted of full-depth replacement for Runway 13-31 (10,000 linear feet), the widening of runway shoulders, and replacements of all runway lighting, pavement markings, and electrical vaults. Approximately five miles of island roadways were also repaired or reconstructed.
RS&H was the owner’s representative and provided construction oversight and quality assurance for Wideawake Airfield, Ascension Island’s 10,000-square-foot runway replacement and infrastructure repairs. The team worked hard to overcome challenges from the isolated environment and lack of resources. All labor, materials, and equipment had to be transported to the site, factoring in many logistical considerations. Materials imported include over 500,000 metric tons of sand and aggregate, all construction equipment, and all office containers and equipment. The design team established communications with home offices, generated construction water from seawater, established temporary power, and created rock-crushing and asphalt-mixing plants on the island. Construction debris and all hazardous materials were properly handled and removed from the island. A second challenge included the construction and restricted island access due to the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the constraints, RS&H maintained a full on-site staff and managed the logistical challenges of maintaining quarantine space for construction staff, assuring the availability of construction materials, and revising phasing planning impacted by COVID-19-related challenges.
RS&H staffed this office with highly trained senior airfield construction specialists. Additionally, the team imported and staffed a complete material testing laboratory on Ascension Island that had been fully validated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Material Testing Center. Through these on-site and technical reach-back resources, the team assured that the quality of materials and construction methods met the contract requirement(s) and provided years of service life to this renewed runway. Environmental management and controls were in place and carefully avoided any impact on any of the protected marine environment or numerous endangered flora, fauna, and animal life unique to this small island. Completing the runway repair was a long-anticipated project for the island and will provide essential support to civilians and military partners.
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