16th October 2014

Jersey Airport’s runway ‘moves’

Airports number their runways according to their orientation, by painting the first two digits of the compass direction in which they point at either end. Thus, between 1952 and 2014, Jersey Airport’s runway was known as 09/27, with planes landing at either ninety degrees or 270 degrees (due east or due west) orientation. However, such measurements are relative to magnetic north and, as that is constantly shifting, they eventually, inevitably, creep out of alignment over time.

So, airport workers spent the night repainting the markers so that, by morning, instead of 09 and 27 they read 08 and 26. The runway itself hadn’t moved, but as it was no longer correct to within 10 degrees of magnetic north the change was compulsory.

A big job

As Jersey Airport explained in a report released in advance of the work, “over and above the visual changes that will occur… there is numerous associated documentation that needs updating, including… airfield mapping and air traffic services manuals. These must be updated and submitted well in advance to the appropriate aviation authorities for approval. In addition… software updates must be made to ensure they are compliant when the designators are changed”.

While it’s difficult to say when it will be necessary to repeat the process, the annual rate of change is around 0.14 degrees. Should this remain stable a further re-designation should not be required for another 56 years.


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