Madeira´s airport

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By Alexandre Raposo

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Madeira´s airport

  1. 1.  The Airport’s runway expansion is one of the largest and most complex civil engineering works performed in Europe in the last decades. The Madeira island Airport is located on the South border of the island in a place named “Santa Catarina”. The need to increase the existent runway and the lack of suitable plane lands in the island, led to the decision of constructing a large prestressed concrete structure, that extends the runway from about 1800 m to a total length of 2781 m.
  2. 2.  The structure for extension of the Madeira island airport is a bridge of unusual proportions that had to be designed to withstand the loads of large commercial airplanes. This new runway extension was built over the ocean. Instead of using landfill to construct the extension, the runway sits on 180 columns.
  3. 3.  The adopted structural design consisted in a series of frames aligned perpendicularly to the runway axis, with 32 meter long spans between them, and which support a bi-directional prestressed concrete slab with variable thickness.
  4. 4.  The direct foundations have an octagonal shape and a deployment area of nearly 100 m2. The reinforced concrete indirect foundations are connected by octagonal blocks supported by groups of 8 moulded piles with a 1.5m diameter and lengths which can reach as much as 62m. The runway is located at a height of 58 m above the sea level.
  5. 5.  After it was completed, the Madeira Runway extension won the Outstanding Structures Award by the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering.
  6. 6.  The new runway is widely celebrated as a great feat in architecture due to its sheer size and the amount of labor it took to erect it. The total construction costs for the extension amounted to more than 500 million Euros, a small price to pay considering pilots and passengers can now land without fear.
  7. 7.  The new airport runway can accommodate all kinds of commercial and private aircraft and more than three million passengers per year.
  8. 8. Alexandre Raposo

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