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On the Runway – Midnight Heroes

Friday, January 14, 2022

San Diego International Airport (SAN) has had a curfew in place since the 1970s which prohibits departures between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Given we are open 24/7 (yes, we are open even though there are no flights departing during the curfew), we were curious if anything happens on the runway during those times. To our amazement, there is plenty of work that goes on!

While most of us are sleeping, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s (Airport Authority) Facilities Maintenance Department electricians, maintenance workers, and contract inspectors spring into action.

On both scheduled and an on-call basis, the team responds to repairs and provides routine maintenance to keep the runway operational and safe. Due to late flights and cargo planes landing early, their work time on the airfield is only about four hours a night.

SAN’s runway requires ongoing maintenance such as rubber removal, repainting of the runway markings, taxiway markers and lead-in lines, concrete and asphalt pavement repairs, vegetation removal, and herbicide applications.

The most frequent repair of the runway is nightly electrical inspections and repairs which are handled by Airport Authority electricians. Each electrician is certified in airfield lighting maintenance and has been trained on how to properly maintain airport runways.

Removing aircraft rubber buildup created by aircraft landings is the second most frequent runway maintenance job. Every eight weeks our service contractor removes this potentially hazardous material with an environmentally friendly chemical known as Aero Green 4035. They are doing their part to keep SAN sustainable!

When the curfew ends and passengers depart from SAN, most will never know about the nighttime work that allows their flight to land and depart safely. Next time you look at our airfield, remember our skilled Facilities Maintenance Department heroes who move quickly in the dark to repair and maintain our runway year-round.