A monster airfield

IN A testament to the size of the PNG LNG project, the landing strip of its Komo Airfield will be as long as 45 Boeing 747 planes lined up nose to tail.
A monster airfield A monster airfield A monster airfield A monster airfield A monster airfield

Published in the November 2012 PNG Report magazine

Given that project operator ExxonMobil's 2011 net profit was almost three times larger than the gross domestic product of Papua New Guinea for that year, perhaps it is not surprising that the Komo Airfield in the remote Southern Highlands region will overshadow Port Moresby's Jacksons International Airport in some respects, once construction is completed.

With 800m built by the end of the June quarter of 2012, the runway of the Komo Airfield is designed to stretch for 3200m at a width of 45m.

This is more than 15% longer than the 2750m, 45m wide runway at Jacksons, which was expanded by Allied forces during World War II.

The Komo Airfield's runway dimensions are not too far off the scope of other international airports either.

Brisbane Airport's longest runway is 3560m long by 45m wide.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles InternationalAirport's longest is 3685m long by 46m wide, with its shortest runway spanning 2720m at the same width.

What makes the Komo Airfield more impressive is the fact it is emerging in a jungle location and heavy rainfall has already triggered several setbacks.

To help visualise the scale, a Boeing 747-400 has a length of 70.7m and a wingspan of 64.4m.

About 365 of these planes could fit into the total envelope of the Komo Airfield site.

In fact, 108 could fit on a nose to tail, wingtip by wingtip basis in two rows on the 115m wide by 3800m long graded airstrip area.

Under development by the McConnell Dowell and Consolidated Contractors joint venture, the airfield is designed to specifically accommodate the Antonov AN-124 planes which have a wingspan of 69.1m and a length of 73.3m.

These massive Ukrainian cargo aircraft will bring in large pieces of equipment for the construction of the PNG LNG project's Hides gas conditioning plant, which is located 10km away to the northeast of Komo Airfield.

The vicinity will be particularly useful as some of this equipment is simply too big to make the journey down the Highlands Highway on trucks.

The airfield will also be used as a base to fly in workers on Dash 8 aircraft to assist future upstream efforts in the wider region.

By the end of June, 75% of the steel erection for the airfield's support facilities had been completed.

Ultimately, the pace of the airfield development has been seen by various analysts as a key indicator of whether the project will hit its goal of first LNG exports in 2014, as the completion of this site will significantly boost its logistical capacity for other construction efforts.

While less than half of the runway is complete since MCJV won the contract in late 2009, ExxonMobil has regularly maintained that the project remains on schedule to start exports in 2014.

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