Cat, R.S. Audley Team Up to Expand Manchester Airport

Wed May 14, 2003 - Northeast Edition

Tremendous growth has transformed Manchester Airport into one of the fastest growing commercial airports in the country. In just four years, passenger volume has increased 300 percent, from one million passengers in 1997 to 3.2 million in 2001.

Manchester Airport has become an attractive alternative to the crowds and congestion of Boston’s Logan Airport, especially for the millions of people living in the northern suburbs of Boston and the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Since 1998, several airlines have started new jet service at Manchester while existing carriers have expanded their schedules. Airport officials expect the recent success to continue and are planning to improve airport facilities and infrastructure to keep pace with the airport’s growing popularity.

Helping the airport meet the increasing demand, R.S. Audley Construction Company, of Bedford, NH, is using a fleet of Cat equipment to perform a massive site excavation and dewatering project to extend the airport’s main runway, Runway 17-35, to 9,000 ft. (2,743 m).

When the project is complete in June 2003, the lengthened runway will handle 300 aircraft landings a day and provide the airlines serving Manchester with increased aircraft efficiencies and new opportunities for non-stop service.

“The tremendous success of Manchester Airport has resulted in a need for several new aircraft gates and infrastructure improvements,” said Manchester Airport Director Kevin A. Dillon. “We have significantly accelerated the timetable for reconstructing and lengthening Runway 17-35 in an effort to optimize the use and efficiency of Manchester Airport.”

The result: an aggressive excavation and site construction project.

Audley turned to Caterpillar dealer Southworth-Milton for the equipment it would need to meet the fast-track, 13-month site preparation and excavation schedule. “We realized from day one that the only way to meet the schedule, and do the job efficiently, would be to commit a fleet of Caterpillar equipment and operators to the job,” said Boyd Watkins, Audley’s superintendent at Manchester Airport. “Then we could be ready to take on the challenge we were given.”

Working together, Audley and Southworth-Milton are mobilizing the right equipment at the right time on the project’s massive site, and ensuring that all Caterpillar vehicles are running steady to keep pace with the project schedule.

“We are using 11 Cat trucks at the site right now,” Watkins said. “If we have even the slightest problem crop up, the Southworth-Milton mechanics come to us, ready to trouble shoot and keep the equipment up and running.”

A mixture of new and older Cat equipment dots the lunar-like landscape: a 375, two 345s, two 980s, a 988 and a 365 at the peak of excavation, supported by two Belley scrapers. They start early and run hard all day, through all of New England’s fast-changing weather conditions.

Before the site phase is through this summer, Audley operators and their machines will move more than 3.5 million cu. yds. (2,675,942 cu m) of New Hampshire soil. During a single December day, R.S. Audley crews moved 25,000 cu. yds. (19,114 cu m) of soil at the site.

“The terrain here is very silty, since it abuts the Merrimack River,” explained Carl Tortolano, principal-in-charge of the Manchester runway project for program manager Edwards & Kelcey Engineers. “The water table is only 10 feet below the surface, so it’s a complicated site challenge for Audley and the crews.”

The most impressive aspect of the project, according to Tortolano, is the sheer scale of the project. “You have to see the size of the site and the orchestration of the construction equipment to fully appreciate its complexity,” he said. “The scale of the work area in relationship to the size of the airport is nothing short of amazing. Keeping the airport open, and maintaining the normal daily flow of ground traffic around and through the airport during construction is a credit to the project team.”

For R.S. Audley and Caterpillar, the project is charging ahead on schedule. “We’ve been held up a bit by the tough winter to be sure,” said Dave Perry of Southworth-Milton’s New Hampshire group. “But the reliability of the Cat trucks have really made a difference for us every day, helping the team look good and allowing us all to feel proud of the progress on this runway schedule.”