In the DCist's August 8, 2023 At DCA, Crews Race Each Night To Repave A Bit Of Runway Before The Next Day’s Flights they describe how runway repaving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is being done.
From what I gather from the text below, each night starting promptly at 00:00 a section is dug up (top 8 inches removed) and between 01:00 and 03:00 the section is repaved with "quick-set asphalt" such that at only a few hours later at 06:00 the first flights are using the new asphalt.
Question: How common is the use of "quick-set asphalt" on runways such that flights may begin just a few hours after paving?
There must be an awful lot of checking and inspecting going on between 03:00 and 06:00 such that the new runway section is qualified for unlimited use (big heavy planes, potentially hard landings) each morning. Is this a one-of-a-kind situation or more common than I'd realized?
11:57 p.m.: It is just minutes before midnight and a series of American Airlines planes are taking off in quick succession before the deadline. The last plane takes off just seconds before the clock hits midnight and the calendar turns over to July 17.
“This is whisky 4-7, are we clear to get in?” a worker asks into a handheld radio.
“(Secondary runway) 15/33 is now closed,” an air traffic controller responds. “I repeat 15/33 is now closed. You can now proceed onto 15/33.”
Even before the air traffic controller finishes his sentence, dozens of trucks, semis, and other equipment are off to the races, speeding ahead to the work site. The much slower brontosaurus-looking milling machines follow slowly behind.
12:15 a.m.: The specialized milling machines get to work cutting eight inches deep in one swoop. They’ll do a 15-foot wide stretch about three football fields long in an hour.
When they’re done, they leave rough pavement in their wake. Then, crews lay hot asphalt and roll it flat, which takes about two hours.
So how do planes land the next morning without getting sticky tar on them? It’s because crews use quick-set asphalt and only do small portions of the runway at a time.
The next morning we learn the crew beat the clock: A United flight to Newark took off at 6 a.m. on the dot that morning. It’s another night well-orchestrated, and they’ll do it all over again tomorrow. It’s the latest in a line of triumphs; workers haven’t missed a deadline yet.