How do you resurface a 3km-long airport runway - while it's still open?

As a plane thunders overhead, a little too close for comfort, you could be forgiven for thinking it was not a great time to start resurfacing the runway.

But for another few months, this will be the nightly reality for the 260-strong workforce charged with laying 66,000 tonnes of asphalt at Stansted Airport.

So how will they go about it?

What is involved in resurfacing a runway?

By June, an area the size of 25 football pitches will have been replaced alongside 1,300 runway lights and 5,000 metres of drainage.

The £3m project is long overdue - the last time the 3km runway at the Essex airport was resurfaced was in 2006 and with up to 50 aircraft movements an hour, it has had quite a beating since then.

The work began back in January and was three months in the planning.

Workers have between midnight and 5am to remove and replace around 100m of runway each night. Credit: ITV News Anglia

For the first 11 weeks, the runway was completely closed overnight between midnight and 6am.

But for this second stage of the project, which began on Sunday, it remains open - albeit at a reduced length - to allow the flights to continue.

Project manager Malachey Doyle said working directly underneath the flight path took some getting used to.

"It feels like it's coming at us, as opposed to over the top of us," he said. "It's something I haven't experienced before.

"There's about 40 planes a night, whether they are landing over the top of you or taking off towards you. Certainly it feels like it's a lot closer than it is.

"It's a safe practice and it has been done but it's not very common to see any more."

Construction teams line up alongside aircraft at Stansted Airport. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Each night the team is aiming to get around 100 metres of runway surface removed and replaced before it is fully re-opened and the frequency of take-offs and landings increases.

Starting at midnight, there is a short pause in all flights while a safety barrier is put in place - during which time any approaching planes are put in a holding pattern.

By 5am, they have to be completely clear.

"From 12am to 4am it's work, work work," said electrician Joe Rollerson, who only qualified last year.

"Then you have the shut-down period. Sometimes it's very stressful, when it's pushing it a bit. But we get through it, we do well."

It's not just planes making their way along the runway at Stansted Airport at the moment. Credit: ITV News Anglia

When the runway was last replaced, the airport was handling around 15 million passengers a year.

Stansted's expansion plans aim to see it reach 43 million passengers a year.

The runway resurfacing work is on track to finish in June - just in time for the busy summer getaway.

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