Woolpert Contracted to Rehabilitate Runways in American Samoa

The firm is evaluating and improving airport transit infrastructure on the islands of Tutuila and Ofu, minimizing future disruption to operations and environmental impacts.

Pago Pago PPG Runway

Woolpert will study the pavement infrastructure, perform a condition evaluation and make recommendations on methods of improvements at Pago Pago International Airport. Photo courtesy of Woolpert

Pago Pago, American Samoa (Sept. 13, 2018) — Woolpert has been signed under two contracts by the American Samoa Government, Department of Port Administration, to evaluate and rehabilitate the primary runway at Pago Pago International Airport (PPG), and to rehabilitate, reconstruct and possibly extend the runway at Ofu Airport (Z08).

American Samoa, a territory of the United States, is comprised of a group of seven islands in the South Central Pacific Ocean and has a population of roughly 55,000. PPG is located on the island of Tutuila. The primary runway, 5-23, is 10,000 feet long and 150 feet wide, and is partially built on a fringing reef. This runway provides international commercial service and supports the country’s air cargo traffic, which is essential to the remote island. The second runway supports interisland traffic and is suitable for use by only small, regional aircraft.

On Runway 5-23 at PPG, Woolpert will study the pavement infrastructure, perform a condition evaluation, and make recommendations on methods of improvements, materials and phasing of the project, while minimizing disruption to airport operations.

Z08 has one 2,000-foot runway that serves the sister islands of Ofu and Olodega, 70 miles east of Pago Pago. Access to these islands, which have a population of roughly 500, is limited to a weekly flight or a chartered eight-hour boat ride, dependent on the weather and seas.

Woolpert Project Manager Curtis Brown said the runway is aging and showing distress, requiring reconstruction and possible extension for safety and increased aeronautical services.

“The Ofu runway extension project would extend the runway into the ocean and fringing reef,” Brown said. “The project has significant environmental considerations, since it would affect a protected coral reef, which is home to the endangered blue coral. We will work with numerous environmental groups, the American Samoa Government, and local entities to ensure the wildlife habitat and beauty of that site is protected.”

Woolpert Practice Leader Chris Snyder said the firm’s extensive and varied experience with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and teaming with a local firm made Woolpert a good fit for these projects.

“The American Samoa Government appreciated our familiarity with the rules and regulations of the FAA as they relate to everything from planning, engineering, geospatial and airspace,” Snyder said. “The FAA has design standards for each airport and procedures to follow to obtain approval and funding for various improvements. The government realized that we could help them with interpreting, applying and complying with the most current standards procedures and practices being applied in the United States, while factoring in the unique and logistical challenges of being more than 2,500 miles from even Hawaii.”

Snyder said while evaluating the project, the team quickly learned how intrinsic family and friends are to the close-knit culture in American Samoa. Although there are frequent interisland flights through Micronesia and the Western Samoan islands, there are only two flights per week to Hawaii from Pago Pago and one flight a week to Ofu.

If the runway isn’t operational or another aspect of airport operations prevents those flights, it can be two weeks before families are reunited. This also makes the utilization of the runways of vital importance.

“It was a very special experience to witness the way aviation connects people in American Samoa,” Snyder said. “When I was in Hawaii and flying to Pago Pago for the first time, all 300 of us were very eager to get on that plane. They were so excited about going home. Then when they got there, it felt like everyone on the island was there to meet them around midnight with smiles, laughs and wonderful greetings. It was a celebration and not just a welcoming home. I’ve been to a lot of places and not quite seen this before.

“This critical need for the airport support affects how we will manage the runway rehabilitation schedule and helps us see the importance of ensuring stability of the infrastructure for years to come.”

These runway rehabilitation projects are now underway and working in tandem. Design work is expected to be complete in the spring, with phased construction for both airport projects to follow over the next few years.

About Woolpert
Woolpert is the fastest growing architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firm in the country, delivering value to clients in all 50 states and around the world by strategically blending innovative design and engineering excellence with leading-edge technology and geospatial applications. With a dynamic research and development department, Woolpert works with inventive business partners such as Google and Esri; operates a fleet of planes, sensors and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS); and continually pushes industry boundaries by working with advanced water technologies, asset management, building information modeling (BIM) and sustainable design. The firm, which is among the ENR’s Top 100 Design Firms, supports a mission to help its clients progress and become more progressive. For over 100 years and with 26 offices across the U.S., Woolpert serves federal, state and local governments; private and public companies and universities; energy and transportation departments; and the U.S. Armed Forces. For more information, visit woolpert.com or call 937-531-1258.