This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
New York City-area business aviation hub Westchester County Airport (HPN) reopened its 6,500-foot Runway 16/34 Thursday after a three-week-long resurfacing project.
While the project was originally intended to involve mainly nighttime work, enabling the runway to continue daytime operations, officials decided to take advantage of the Covid-19-induced lull in traffic to accelerate the work schedule. "As the result of the extreme downturn in flight activities worldwide, we have taken the opportunity to advance the construction schedule of the Runway 16/34 rehabilitation project," said airport manager Peter Scherrer. "This effort significantly reduces the overall construction schedule and improves the quality of the final pavement surface, which ultimately extends the service life of the runway."
According to county executive George Latimer, by completing the project during this time frame, paving operations were shortened from three months to three weeks, with as much as 6,000 tons of asphalt placed in one day.
To celebrate the reopening, HPN-based aircraft charter, management, maintenance, and flight training provider Performance Flight launched an aerial “Scavenger Hunt” for clients looking to fly again. “On the heels of a lengthy quarantine, they were anxious to leave their homes and enjoy some freedom,” said company president Lewis Liebert. “After nearly three months of planes sitting idle, we needed some innovative ideas.” Pilots were given a list of airports, each with an assigned point value, as well as certain landmarks. “With restaurants and other businesses closed, we had to offer people a reason to go somewhere,” he explained.
Since the spread of the pandemic in early March, Liebert has looked to innovate to preserve his business through measures such as the Next Gen Ground Training Platform that uses SmartBoard technology and a vast library of training content, enabling his flight school to continue to function. As a result, the company was able to preserve most of its staff during this lean time.
Once the new pavement on 16/34 has aged for a minimum of 30 days, it will require grooving to provide channels for the escape of standing water, and the airport will conduct nighttime closures on weeknights to perform the work, from 10 pm until 6 am starting on June 15. It will last for approximately 20 days, with the exception of July 4, according to Scherrer.