Maroochydore/Sunshine Coast Airport (MCY) temporarily closed its two-year-old runway earlier this week after airport workers found what was described as a sinkhole down one end of the runway. The busy regional airport closed its runway for several hours on Tuesday morning, exposing one of the vulnerabilities of single runway airports.
Airport’s only runway temporarily closes on Tuesday
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the airport closed the 2450m x 45m Runway 13/31 and issued a Notice to Airmen on Tuesday until later revoking that mid-morning. Whether it was a bona fide sinkhole, a more mundane pothole, or simply some wear and tear hasn’t been ascertained. However, a sinkhole generally has significant geophysical implications and would take more than a few hours to patch up and paper over.
“Our operations team had given us a call and notified us that the runway was currently closed because of a sinkhole that had appeared down on the western end of the runway,” one source told the ABC. Typically, early to mid-morning is one of MCY’s quieter periods. While there are some flights departing for Australia’s southern capitals and the odd jet drifting in, the tempo of arrivals and departures doesn’t typically increase until later in the morning.
A view of the old MCY runway and the new runway then under construction. Photo: Sunshine Coast Airport
Sinkhole or simply some run-of-the-mill wear and tear?
An airport spokesperson referred to “pavement repairs” on the shoulder of one end of the runway. The runway only opened in 2020, replacing the old 18/36 runway. The new runway can handle planes as big as Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s and forms part of a large-scale, long-term redevelopment of MCY to better cater to increased aircraft and passenger traffic. The runway’s construction cost AU$334 million (US$235 million) and is 500 meters longer than the runway it replaced.