Runway extensions: one month until the vote


In one month's time, the Zurich electorate will vote on the runway extensions at Zurich Airport. The reasons for the safety project at a glance.  

For the first time in around 50 years, the runway system at Zurich Airport is to be overhauled. In order to increase the safety margin in flight operations, two of the three runways are to be extended by 400 and 280 metres respectively. The extensions will reduce the complexity of Zurich Airport, which is among the most demanding in the world with its crossed runways. 

Safety review as the trigger 

Due to a near-accident with two planes taking off on the intersecting runways in 2011, a comprehensive safety inspection was ordered by the Swiss government. The "Safety Review Zurich Airport (SÜFZ)" report lists thirty measures for improving and optimising safety at Zurich Airport. Two of these are the extensions of runways 28 and 32. Accordingly, the Federal Council formulated a mandate for Zurich Airport Ltd. in the Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan (SIL). According to the Airport Act, changes to the location and length of the runways are subject to political approval in the canton of Zurich, which is why a vote will be held on 3 March.  

Increased safety thanks to more braking distance and fewer crossings 

The runway system at Zurich Airport is complex and consists of three runways of different lengths. Depending on the time of day, weather conditions and size of the aircraft, they must be used in different ways. With the adapted runways, unplanned runway changes and safety-related crossings on the ground and in the air can be significantly reduced. In addition, the braking distance on the runway will be longer. This reduces the risks in the event of overruns (overshooting the runway) or in the event of an aborted take-off. 

The runway extension means that aircraft will also be able land on runway 28 in the evening in more demanding weather conditions. Switch to southern approaches, which generates crossings on the ground and in the air, can be significantly reduced. Thanks to the extension of runway 32, more heavy long-haul aircraft will be able to take off on it. This creates crossing-free operations even in the late evening.  

Greater punctuality and more quiet time for residents 

The runway extensions mean that even in demanding conditions, it will be possible to operate more flights  as set out in the policy. The punctuality of planned landings and take-offs can be increased. The greater operational stability serves to reduce the number of delays and will not lead to an expansion of capacity. The extension of runway 32 also means that the taxiing time of long-haul aircraft will be reduced by up to 10 minutes in the evening, resulting in the earlier end of operations on average, and thus more quiet time for residents. This will benefit the entire population in all directions.  

Investment in a safety project 

Safeguarding flight operations is a top priority for Zurich Airport Ltd. Today, the airport already spends around CHF 100 million a year on safety. The costs for the extensions of runways 28 and 32 amount to CHF 250 million and will be borne exclusively by Zurich Airport Ltd.  

The runway extensions will not affect the number of flight movements, as there is no connection between runway length and capacity. Only one aircraft may be on a runway at any given time, regardless of its length. 

Implementation of federal safety requirements 

The runway extensions are a federal requirement to increase the safety margin at Zurich Airport. There is no alternative measure in flight operations that would achieve the same improvements in terms of safety and the reduction of delays. On 3 March, the electorate of the Canton of Zurich will decide whether Zurich Airport Ltd. may submit an official planning application to the federal government.  

Further Information:

The most importent questions and answers about the runway extensions (german only)
Expert opinions from the aviation industry on runway extentions (german only)
To the FOCA website (german only)