Auckland International Airport Ltd. R6 runway replacement/A380 runway shoulder widening project


All projects face risks that need to be understood and managed well if the project is to succeed. This is recognised in Chapter 11 of the Project Management Institute's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (PMI, 2004, p 237 – 268). It is also increasingly recognised and articulated in other quarters, most notably in Australia and New Zealand, within the AS/NZS 4360 Risk Management Standard. The management of these risks becomes particularly relevant where risks are complex and consequences of failure are unacceptably high.

The Auckland International Airport's R6 Runway Rehabiltation/A380 Runway Shoulder Widening (R6/A380) project required the management of a large number of complex risks, not least of which was the need to prevent aircraft from impacting the runway construction site. These risks were managed within a framework modelled on the Australian/New Zealand Risk Management Standard, AS/NZS 4360:2004.

This paper presents risk management processes applied to the complex risks associated with the R6/A380 project, outlines the key features of their success and comments on how these might be considered within the context of the

AS/NZS 4360 and PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11

There are some comparisons that can be made between AS/NZS 4360 and PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11 before the case study commences.

PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11 is part of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, which is an ANSI standard and a global standard of the Project Management Institute.

AS/NZS 4360 was first published in 1995 and has been updated and re-issued several times since. It has been adopted by many private and public sector organisations as a standardised process for managing risks associated with their activities, not only in New Zealand and Australia, but also further afield. Approaches established in AS/NZS 4360 are expected to be incorporated, largely intact, within a global ISO risk management standard.

The core processes or elements of the two documents are illustrated in Exhibit 1.

Both AS/NZS 4360 and PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11 are involved with identifying, analysing, and managing the risks associated with activities. Their overarching aim of achieving acceptable outcomes is consistent in this regard. There is enough variation in their schematic representations, however, to suggest that they may also differ in a number of ways.

One difference is that of timing. AS/NZS 4360 assumes that risk management occurs throughout all aspects of the task at hand. Although the PMBOK® Guide recommends considering risk as one of the initial project activities when developing a project charter, a number of key project steps will have already been undertaken before risk is formally considered. (This may seem a subtle difference, but it is important, as the case study's discussion on consideration of risk during the project's business case development will illustrate.)

AS/NZS 4360:2004 and PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11

Exhibit 1 – AS/NZS 4360:2004 and PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11

Another difference is that AS/NZS 4360 stands as a reference in its own right. PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11, on the other hand, must be read in the context of the PMBOK® Guide as a whole, particularly Chapter 4, which deals with integration, and Chapter 10 on communication, which is a key feature in any risk management process.

Other similarities and differences will be drawn at the end of this paper, following the discussion of risk management processes applied to the R6/A380 project.

Risk Management Processes Applied to R6/A380


Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) has been progressively upgrading its main runway since 1991 to extend the economic life of the runway and to allow the airport to accommodate the Airbus A380 and other future aircraft.

The R6/A380 project, which represented the final construction phase of this 15- year rehabilitation and upgrade project, was conducted between 26 March and 21 May 2006.

The airfield's main runway was closed to allow the eight-week period of construction, requiring aircraft to take off and land on the airfield's contingent runway, a converted taxiway. Taxiway configurations were significantly altered during this period to accommodate changed runway arrangements. The potential for congestion, delays, and disruption of air service also increased significantly as a result.

During the 56 days that the main runway was closed, 23,019 scheduled aircraft movements occurred, with the busiest day during this period (7 April) accommodating 480 movements in total. Managing these aircraft movements was itself subject to a number of risk treatments aimed at minimising aircraft operations during the runway closure period. These included:

  • Peak spreading – This was undertaken by AIAL, BARNZ (Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand), and the airlines to identify the schedule peaks and to spread these peaks through schedule changes.
  • Actively discouraging General Aviation (GA) flights – AIAL actively discouraged movement of GA, or smaller non-scheduled aircraft, during the runway closure period.
  • Training flight ban – AIAL banned all training flights during the runway closure period.

Establishing the Business Case

AIAL applied risk management processes to both the business case development and implementation phases of this project.

A number of the project's key risk management decisions were made at the outset, as the business case was developed and approved. It was decided during the business case development, for example, that the consequences of getting things wrong (aircraft impacting the construction site, for example) were too high for the airport company, as principal, to relinquish control of the work site to contractors inexperienced in airside operating conditions and that the airport company would engage in negotiated contracts with preferred contractors for this reason rather than opt for competitive tenders. Building the implications for budgeting, planning, and implementing this and other fundamentally important risk-based decisions into the business case before it was approved provided the direction and resource that the project team needed to apply relevant and robust risk management practices to the project.

R6/A380 Project Scope

R6/A380 project planning and implementation was overseen by the R6/A380 project team, comprising representatives from:

  • AIAL – the airport operator and principal
  • Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner (Beca) – consultant design engineers and project managers
  • Kaipara Civil Engineering Ltd – civil engineering contractors
  • Brian Perry Civil Ltd. – civil engineering contractors
  • Airways New Zealand – Air traffic control and navigational aids

The R6/A380 project scope of works generally entailed:

  • R6 Runway repairs – replacing 404 reinforced concrete pavement slabs on the main runway
  • A380 Runway Shoulder Widening Stage 2 – final stage (west) of widening of the runway shoulder by 7.5m each side to prepare for the operation of A380 aircraft
  • A9S and A10S Taxiway Repairs – replacing 77 reinforced concrete pavement slabs and 95 reinforced concrete pavement slabs, respectively
  • Joint Sealing Replacement
  • Resurfacing and widening of the 05R west extension turning node
  • CAT III Enabling Works – ducting, chamber, and light pot installation

R6/A380 Project Risk Management Needs

AIAL recognised in the planning and implementation of this project that achieving the degree of assurance necessary for the range of stakeholders involved would require the integration of:

  • The relevant aspects of existing risk management frameworks of those organisations that could impact on the project's success or are significantly impacted by it, with
  • The additional risk management processes that would be required to manage the specific risks that arose as a result of the project itself and which would not necessarily have been anticipated and managed within existing stakeholder risk management frameworks.

This was achieved by establishing the R6/A380 Project Risk Management Team, comprising:

  • AIAL – R6/A380 Proj ect Manager
  • Beca – R6/A380 Project Manager
  • Marsh – risk management consultants, with assistance from an aviation consulting specialist

Key tasks performed by this team and others in preparation for and during the R6/A380 project are shown in Exhibit

Key R6/A380 Risk Management Tasks

Exhibit 2 – Key R6/A380 Risk Management Tasks

Document-holding stakeholders were those who could have impacted the successful implementation of the project or could have been impacted by it, and who were already working within the aviation safety framework established by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ). This applied to airlines authorised through other civil aviation jurisdictions to operate at Auckland International Airport.

Risk owners were members of stakeholder organisations who were assigned the responsibility of overseeing the development and implementation of risk management plans for risks contained in the project risk register.

Verifiers comprised a technical subgroup of suitably qualified and experienced personnel appointed by the project team to independently verify the efficacy of the risk owner's risk management controls.

The “complex risks” in this project were those impacting aviation safety. The balance of this case study focuses, therefore, on aviation safety risks and how these were anticipated and managed during the project.

A Framework for Managing R6/A380 Aviation Safety Risks

The project Risk Management Team employed approaches consistent with methodologies established in AS/NZS 4360:2004 when managing the aviation safety risks in this project.

Key elements of this process included:

  • Communicating and consulting with stakeholders
  • Establishing the context
  • Identifying the risks
  • Analysing the risks
  • Evaluating the risks (in terms of the context)
  • Treating the risks (to achieve a level of risk that is considered acceptable by those who could be impacted by it)
  • Providing continuing monitoring and review

These elements were addressed by the project team with respect to aviation safety risks in the following ways.

Communicating and Consulting with Stakeholders

A project of this type requires the integrated participation of numerous parties and has effects on the interests of many others. The project team identified those organisations that could impact the successful implementation of the project or be impacted by it during the project's planning phase. These included:

  • AIAL (project principal and airport operator)
  • Project engineers
  • Contractors and subcontractors (and their materials suppliers)
  • Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (the aviation industry regulator)
  • Air traffic control
  • Airline operators (and their representative organisations)
  • Airport services operators
  • Aircraft fuelling operators
  • Aircraft maintenance operators
  • Airfield security operators
  • Border control operators

Appropriate points of contact within stakeholder organisations were established, giving consideration to the nature of the project and the manner in which it may impact (or be impacted by) the organisations concerned. The need to establish a mechanism to identify new airline operators who might choose to operate at the airport during the construction period was recognised and processes were established to ensure that they received the same level of briefing as those that were already on the stakeholder list.

Establishing the Context

The “context” related to the objectives of the project and the characteristics of the environment in which these objectives were pursued. It also involved calibrating measures used to analyse the size of risks and the criteria that would determine whether a particular risk could be tolerated.

In establishing the context, the project team:

  • Specified its aims for the project in the R6/A380 Project Plan, which stated: “The minimisation of disruption to the airfield operators and the safety of airfield operators and construction personnel is the primary focus for planning and the determination of the construction methodology.”
  • Considered aviation safety incidents that occurred during previous runway rehabilitation works. The need to avoid similar incidents during R6/A380 was agreed upon and responsibility for achieving this was assigned.
  • Critically reviewed the risk management processes applied to previous runway rehabilitation projects. Areas warranting improvement were agreed upon and responsibilities for addressing these during the project were assigned.
  • Detailed the project aims, methodologies, timing, and stakeholders with key accountabilities in the AIAL F06 Pavements Projects: Project Plan.
  • Defined risk management approaches and responsibilities within the AIAL F06 Pavements Projects: Project Plan for F06 pavement projects in general, and for the R6/A380 project in particular.
  • Defined the project's aviation safety risk management objectives, with a primary focus on identifying, managing, mitigating, or removing risks to aviation safety on the aerodrome.
  • Recognised that those stakeholder organisations and individuals who are Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ) certificate or document holders (or foreign carrier equivalents) already operate within established aviation safety systems. This was reflected in the risk identification and mitigation approaches that were subsequently adopted.

Identifying the Risks

To be identified reliably, risks need to be considered by those who are:

  1. Familiar with the operating environment (under normal and abnormal conditions) and the works proposed
  2. Competent to identify the broad range of risks that might result from this combination (having due regard for the context)

This was done in structured and documented forums so that the risks identified could be revisited and their subsequent analysis, evaluation, and mitigation could be reviewed and updated as things progressed and changes occurred over time. The rigour applied in each case was commensurate with the consequences that could be expected if risks were not identified and reliably controlled, and to the various stakeholders' tolerance to these outcomes.

Recognising that stakeholder organisations and individuals who are CAANZ certificate or document holders (or foreign carrier equivalents) already operate within established aviation safety systems, risk identification commenced with briefing papers sent by e-mail to these organisations that:

  • Outlined the project's scope, method, and timing
  • Requested document holders to verify that the R6/A380 project did not compromise their aviation safety systems as established in terms of their existing expositions, or to advise areas where compromises might be expected

The briefings and response requests were targeted at certificate-holding personnel and quality assurance managers responsible for administering the document holder expositions and associated operating procedures and practices within each document-holding organisation. Distribution of briefing papers was followed up with e-mail messages to contacts to encourage consideration and responses, where confirmation had not been received. E-mail messages were followed up with phone calls to those that had not responded. Feedback was mixed, which was expected. As an attempt to encourage document holders to consider the project's implications in terms of their own operating and aviation safety management systems, the approach was considered unique. It would not have been anticipated by document holders operating under their current rules environments. Even so, the responses obtained were considered a significant advance from risk management approaches applied to previous pavement projects at the airport. The project team took comfort in the fact that issues raised by those document holders who did provide considered responses were few, consistent in nature, and had already been anticipated by the project team.

Risk identification workshops were also conducted by the project risk management team to consider aviation safety risks that arose as a result of the project. Aviation safety risks were defined in this process as those that could result in incidents that would be reportable to CAANZ, which, in most cases, were those that could result in damage to aircraft or aircraft harming others as a result of the project. Fault tree modelling was used to provide the degree of rigour, transparency, and stakeholder participation warranted for identifying risks of this nature.

Fault trees, initially developed by the project risk management team, were validated in workshops by technical and operations specialists from organisations that were generally representative of relevant stakeholder interests.

Workshop attendees included representatives from the project team plus airport operations, air traffic control, R6/A380 project team members, and senior flight operations representation from Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Air New Zealand, as well as various other New Zealand-based organisations. Briefing papers were circulated to workshop participants for their prior consideration.

Workshop attendees identified 128 aviation safety risks arising as a direct result of the project. Personnel most appropriate to lead the development and implementation of risk mitigation plans (risk owners) were discussed and agreed upon during the workshops or in later one-on-one interviews with workshop attendees.

Risk owners were generally those personnel directly responsible for managing the risk in question, or were best placed to coordinate the consideration and development of risk mitigation plans, where the responsibility was shared across a number of different stakeholder organisations. Co-owners were generally those who have some form of responsibility or part to play in developing and implementing associated risk mitigation plans.

Risks, once identified, were loaded into a web-based risk register together with mitigation plans and verification sign-offs (once achieved), which all members of the project team and risk owners had access to.

The risk identification process was, itself, subject to a peer review to confirm that processes were as robust as intended.

Analysing the Risks

Analysis of risks, once identified (to determine scale), requires suitably experienced people using appropriate analytical tools or approaches to determine the extent to which these risks can manifest themselves. The rigour with which this is applied needs to be commensurate with the potential impact on stakeholders and their tolerance to these impacts, should things go wrong.

Scale was defined by the top events that were considered in the fault tree workshops, making further analysis of the risks identified unnecessary during this phase of the project.

Evaluating the Risks

The project team in practice treated the manifestation of any of the aviation safety risks identified as unacceptable. In effect, a qualitative application of the ALARP principle was used to establish whether, irrespective of how low these risks seemed, they couldn't be made lower, provided costs did not exceed benefits. Ranking risks (in terms of consequence or likelihood) was therefore not attempted in a formal sense. This was considered appropriate given the timeframes involved and the general intolerance of most parties to poor aviation safety outcomes.

Treating the Risks

Risks, once identified, analysed, evaluated, and found to be susceptible to further treatment, need to be treated in ways such that:

  • Risk mitigation plans provide a high degree of certainty that project aims will be achieved.
  • Individual risk mitigations do not result in new, undetected risks.
  • Risk mitigation plans will be achieved as efficiently as circumstances permit.

Processes to monitor implementation of risk mitigation measures are required to verify that mitigation measures were agreed upon and were reliably executed.

Risk owners were required to develop mitigation plans for those risks that were considered relevant to the project— in collaboration with co-owners when input from more than one organisation or divisions within an organisation was required to achieve a reliable result.

A Technical Subgroup was established to verify the efficacy of project risk mitigation plans, including those intended to address aviation safety risks. The Technical Subgroup's terms of reference included:

  • Confirming that relevant risk owners and co-owners had been involved in considering and developing the planned mitigations, and that they generally concurred with the conclusions or approaches suggested
  • Being satisfied that mitigation plans were likely to achieve their desired results if implemented as suggested, or advising required improvements if not
  • Maintaining an ongoing liaison with primary risk owners on risks until they were closed out or the project was complete
  • Advising the project's risk management database administrator of risks that could be closed out once they had been dealt with conclusively or were no longer relevant
  • Advising the project team in conjunction with the risk owner of any risks that could not be dealt with reliably
  • Monitoring and verifying new risks in a similar manner as they appeared on the risk register

Those appointed to the verification Technical Subgroup were experienced in the areas of risk that they had been allocated to. It became expedient during verification for verifiers to guide and directly assist in some instances those developing and executing mitigation plans, to ensure that the plans were developed and executed in an efficient and timely manner. These situations usually arose where risk owner time resources were stretched and the verifier had been directly involved in the risk identification process and had a clear understanding of how the risks in question could be reliably addressed.

Risk mitigation activity of particular note included three specific pilot information/training aids that the project team provided to airline operators to issue to pilots, comprising:

  • An information brochure prepared by AIAL for pilots to read and carry in their flight bag
  • A CD-ROM prepared by Air New Zealand and made available to other airline operators to use to brief pilots flying in or out of Auckland Airport while the airport's main runway was closed and its contingent runway was active
  • Examples of cautions/warnings that Air New Zealand and Freedom Air included as supplementary amendments to their expositions for Auckland Airport while the airport's main runway was closed and its contingent runway was active, for other airline operators to amend and adopt as they saw fit to suit their particular circumstances

The timing of the release of this information was important—information had to be issued close enough to the project construction period for it to be current (and not forgotten) and with enough lead time so that it could be reliably disseminated and assimilated throughout the receiving organisations. These three pilot information/training aids dealt with 48 of the 128 identified aviation safety risks either in part or whole.

Monitor and Review

Recognizing that the project occurs in a dynamic environment and that events may not happen in the way anticipated is required if risks are to be managed throughout a project period. Such a process needs to have built into it:

  • Routine but specific steps to detect change in the environment or any other aspect of the context
  • Assurance in relation to assumptions (that intended controls will work in practice as anticipated, for example)
  • An ability to rework any aspect of the process in a way that has a strong integrity
  • Information collection and reporting processes to allow those with responsibility (whether stakeholder or principal) to have positive awareness that what is actually happening is within intended limits or performance criteria

“Risks” were standard agenda items at daily construction meetings. Implicit in this was the consideration of known issues that may have been cause for concern or new issues that had arisen or had been anticipated.

The status of current and planned risk management processes was reported in monthly project reports prepared for the principal before and during the construction phase.

Project scope change notices (approval mechanism for changes to the project scope) required risks associated with the scope changes to be considered and mitigation actions identified by the sponsor before they were considered by the project manager. Scope change notices were reviewed and recommended in principle by the project manager before forwarding to the AIAL General Manager Engineering for final approval or rejection. Ten scope change notices were considered during the construction phase of the project, one of which was rejected because the risks it introduced could not be reliably controlled within the resource allocation and time available.

R6/A380 Project – Aviation Safety Outcomes

There were no aviation safety incidents reported to CAANZ during the R6/A380 construction period that could be directly attributed to the project works.

Auckland International Airport Ltd., the owner/operator of the airfield and principal to the construction contract, was very happy with the project outcomes. The rigour applied to the risk management processes in producing an incident-free project was considered effort well spent.

R6/A380 – Risk Management Key Success Factors

A major factor that influenced the success of the R6/A380 risk management process was the rigor applied to each element. This included:

  • Stakeholder briefing:

•  Sending out information packs and then meeting with key stakeholders before the risk identification workshops to close out the briefing and to make sure that they understood the project and how it might affect their interests

•  Employing an industry specialist (a retired airlines chief of flight operations) to help with pilot communications

  • Risk identification:

•  The multiple-level approach to the risk identification process including fault tree analysis (aviation safety) and structured brainstorming (other project risks)

•  The review of risks identified with risk registers from previous similar projects

  • Treatment:

•  The engagement of a panel of verifiers with considerable experience in each risk category to check mitigation actions proposed by the risk owners were appropriate

  • Change management:

•  The application of a risk management procedure to the change management process so that risks were fully considered prior to the approval of new scope

  • Monitoring and control:

•  The panel of verifiers assigned to follow up with risk owners to make sure their mitigation actions were being undertaken, and that identified risks were closed out prior to commencement of the physical works

Another significant factor was the level of communication and tools used, including:

  • On-line risk register – this allowed risk owners to have live access to the most up-to-date status information on their assigned risks
  • Stakeholder briefing/materials – this included, for example, information packs, brochures, CD-ROMs, and other training materials to brief stakeholders and pilots on the project particulars, available in hard copy and on the AIAL web site.

The multiple controls placed on high-consequence risks was also a major factor. For example “incorrect aircraft line-up” risk included multiple layers of risk mitigation, from the pilot briefing materials issued, to the last line of defence, where the air traffic controllers were in visual range of an approaching aircraft and could act accordingly.

The most important influences were the risk-based decisions that were made at the outset, during the development of the project's business case, where the direction and resource was provided that required and allowed the Project

Team to proceed with the degree of rigor and process that was necessary in order to provide a high degree of assurance that the project would be implemented successfully.

Application to PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11

AS/NZS 4360 is a methodology, whereas PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11 is a guide.

Both standards are comprehensive and generic when considered in detail. As such, not all process elements or techniques will be relevant to any given project (or phase of a project).

Risk managers will need to customise their risk management processes to meet the specific needs of their projects, irrespective of which standard or guideline they adopt. The R6/A380 project team, for example, which adopted the AS/NZS 4360 approach for the implementation phase of the project, focused primarily on stakeholders (identification & engagement), communication, risk identification and development, implementation and verification of treatments. Evaluation was less relevant during the implementation phase of the project because this had been dealt with to a large extent when the initial business case was defined and agreed. Over-resourcing analysis and evaluation during to the implementation phase would have been a risk in itself, because it would have drained resources from more important tasks and could have introduced unnecessary distractions.

AS/NZS 4360 assumes that risk management occurs throughout all aspects of the task at hand, whereas formal consideration in the PMBOK® Guide in Chapter 11 assumes that a number of preceding project steps will have already been undertaken. The risk in this is that the business case, once set, may place unhelpful constraints on the degree of rigor and process that is necessary for the project team to provide a high degree of assurance that the project would be implemented successfully.

AS/NZS 4360 stands as a complete reference in its own right, whereas PMBOK® Guide Chapter 11 must be read in the context of the PMBOK® Guide as a whole, which increases the challenge for risk management professionals who wish to understand and apply the risk management principles it contains.


Air New Zealand Flight Operations. (March–May 2006). Auckland temporary runway ops. CD-ROM.

Auckland International Airport Ltd. (14 February 2006). Method of work plan – R6 Runway Rehabilitation/A380 Runway Shoulder Widening Project Stage 2 – Version V4.

Auckland International Airport Ltd. (undated). F06 Pavements Projects – Organisation structure – Project development & works phase.

Auckland International Airport Ltd. (undated). Temporary Runway Operations NZAA Airport 26 March–21 May 2006. Brochure.

Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner. (November 2005). Project plan – F06 Pavements Projects.

Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner. (16 February 2006). F06 Pavements Projects – Risk Register.

Blackburn, Q., Carr, K., Robinson, R. & Wyness, B. (July 2006). Managing aviation safety risks associated with the Auckland International Airport Ltd's R6 Runway Repair/A380 Runway Shoulder Widening Stage 2 Project.

Marsh. (November 2005). Auckland International Airport Ltd – R6 Runway Rehabilitation/A380 Runway Shoulder Widening Stage 2 Project – Briefing paper to document holders.

Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge – 2004 edition. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand. (2004). Risk Management – AS/NZS 4360:2004.

Appendix A

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2008, Quintin Blackburn, Kevin Carr, and Rod Robinson
Originally published as a part of 2008 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Sydney, Australia



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