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The Earth Moves For Stansted

06 July 2009

A geological phenomenon has caused Stansted Airport to undertake the unusual task of renaming its 3,000-metre runway.

Small changes in the position of the Earth’s magnetic field have meant that the airport’s single runway, previously known as 23/05 because of its location and compass heading, has become 22/04.

Trevor Waldock, Stansted Airport’s head of airside operations, said: “We’ve had to make this change due to the Magnetic North Pole slowly drifting on the Earth’s surface while our runway remains in a fixed position. It’ll be roughly another 56 years before we have to consider changing it again.

“Redesignating the runway at a busy international airport such as Stansted presents a number of complex challenges, so we’ve had a programme of works specially organised to minimise any disruption to normal operations.

“I would like to thank all those staff who have worked tirelessly over the past few months to successfully deliver this challenging project at one of the busiest single-runway airports in the world.”

The project – which took place at night when operational requirements were at a minimum – was completed on July 5 and included the replacement of all airfield signage and the repainting of the huge numbers at each end of the runway.

The renumbering is a change of name alone and will not have any impact on flight paths. All pilots and airport operational staff have been informed of the change and an extensive IT system upgrade has also been completed.

The Magnetic Pole will continue to drift until it eventually switches with the Magnetic South Pole. The Earth last went through this an estimated 780,000 years ago. With time, due to the Magnetic North Pole moving south, the Northern Lights will become visible to the UK.