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The Great JFK Runway Closure of 2010: Your Definitive Guide

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Written by: Phil Derner Jr.
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The first day of March brings light at the end of the tunnel for many who are eager for Spring to be upon us, and for the annoyances of our rough winter to be left behind. However, the beginning of the month uncovers a new beast…the long-term closure of JFK Airport’s longest and busiest runway. Here is a very straight-forward what, why and how of its affect on you.

The What and When

JFK’s 14,572-foot Runway 13R/31L will be getting a facelift from March 1st to June 30th. The airstrip is showing signs of needed rehab since its last work in 1993, and will also undergo widening from 150 to 200 feet in order to better-accommodate Airbus A380 flights, of which three airlines may be operating at the airport simultaneously by year’s end.

Once the runway reopens in June, it will only be partially usable with various restrictions until September 15th. Those restrictions will include shortened runway usage for both arrivals and departures.

The southern end of runway 13R/31L overlaps with other runways and vital taxiways that lead to them. As a result, this portion will remain open for the initial four month-closure. However, the airport’s second longest runway, the 11,351-foot 4L/22R will be closed for two weeks from September 16th to September 29th to accommodate the work on that overlapping section.

The last great Howard Beach 31L departure photo we'll see for a while, captured yesterday by Eric Dunetz.

All runways are expected to be fully open and operational by November 16th, although all of this is subject to change.

Delays, which already help JFK rank among the worst airports in the nation, will be even more pronounced without use of its “Bay Runway”. Airlines like JetBlue, whose main hub is at JFK, have made adjustments such as cutting flights and allowing additional time in their schedules. Delta and American have cut their schedules, as well.

After November 16th’s hopeful “all-clear”, the runway is expected to last up to four decades before needing another overhaul.

Runway Configurations

The closure of runway 13R/31L means that the airfield loses its busiest departure runway, which handles 40% of its total operations. Much of this duty will mostly be passed along to it parallel partner, runway 13L/31R, which is normally used only for props or light jets or for other flights during overnight hours.
The airport ran a couple of days of practice departures from this runway a few weeks in advance of the closure.

These are the three possible configurations during the closure, which utilize the other three runways. These are shown in the order of their preference of usage.

Effects on Spotters

Planespotters and enthusiasts who would like to take advantage of this unique usage setup can probably best-utilize Frank M. Charles Park in Howard Beach, seen on the JFK Spotting Guide. As departures on runway 31R make their hard right turns, there should be good photographic opportunities with a decent focal length lens in the late and low sunlight, especially as summer approaches.

Home page feature and thumbnail photo by Mario J. Craig.

About the Author

Phil Derner Jr.
Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has aviation experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He owns and operates NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert through writing, consulting, public speaking and media appearances. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.



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