For Release: March 15, 1996
Headquarters, Washington, DC
March 15, 1996
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
FAA Headquarters, Washington, DC
WINTER RUNWAY SAFETY SUBJECT OF NEW STUDY
The safety of aircraft takeoffs and landings will be enhanced
with the knowledge and operational procedures expected from a new
study of winter runway friction now underway.
The five-year government/industry study, called the Joint Winter
Runway Friction Measurement Program, is being led by NASA and
Transport Canada with support from the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). Also participating are organizations and
equipment manufacturers from Europe and several Scandinavian
The study will include braking tests with instrumented aircraft
and ground vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. Results are expected to
enhance safety for all ground operations and help relieve airport
congestion during bad weather. Results also will help industry
develop improved tire designs, better chemical treatments for snow
and ice control, more reliable ground vehicle friction measuring
systems and runway surfaces that minimize bad weather effects.
Flight crew recognition of less-than-acceptable reported runway
friction conditions prior to the "go/no go" or the "land/go around"
decision point is one of the near-term program goals.
NASA's B-737 research aircraft and Canada's National Research
Council Falcon-20 aircraft completed a week-long series of landing
tests earlier this month on ice-,snow- and slush-covered runways at
the Jack Garland Airport in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, about 200
miles north of Toronto.
Surface conditions were artificially varied to expand the range
of data collected. Many different runway friction-measuring ground
vehicles -- vans, trailers and modified cars -- took readings with
continuous and fixed slip devices under similar runway conditions
for comparison with each other and with the braking performance of
the two instrumented aircraft.
Winter runway evaluations also are planned at the Brunswick
Naval Air Station, Maine. Water contamination studies are planned
at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA, and the FAA
Technical Center in New Jersey.
"Data from the program will be used to quantify exactly how much
improvement has been made in measuring runway friction since we
performed similar tests with the FAA a decade ago. We hope to learn
enough over the course of the study to confidently recommend
international guidelines for aircraft and airport ground operations
in winter weather," said Thomas Yager, lead NASA engineer on the
Broad-based changes in the industry since the 1980s strongly
suggested a follow-up to a NASA-FAA study conducted between 1983
and 1988. Improved measurement equipment, computer software and
test procedures need to be evaluated. Data is also needed on new
anti- and de-icing chemicals, water/slush drag effects on new
aircraft types and tire construction effects on hydroplaning.
The study also was suggested by strong international support for
developing a standardized set of guidelines for runway friction
measurement and reporting. In spite of advances in technology and
operational procedures, safe winter operations remain a challenge
for airport operators, air traffic controllers, airlines and pilots
who must coordinate their efforts under rapidly-changing weather
Complicating the winter weather picture is that criteria for
safe operations on a given runway snow condition differ from
airport to airport, due to differences in grooving and pavements.
Obtaining data relating various winter runway friction numbers to
aircraft stopping distance requirements would be a significant step
toward the development and adoption of standardized guidelines or
tables to be used by pilots.
NASA, the FAA and Transport Canada have cooperated in several
and instrumented aircraft studies aimed at improving aircraft
ground performance in bad weather. NASA and the FAA worked together
as early as the 1950s to establish early slush depth criteria for
runway operations. A spin-off from later NASA aircraft hydroplaning
studies resulted in the widespread practice of grooving automotive
highways to improve tire traction during rainstorms.
In a modern spin-off application, much of the equipment being
used to monitor runways is or will be used to measure highway
pavement friction performance. In areas with high accident rates,
pavement textures can be modified based on readings from ground
friction measurement vehicles to improve the safety of automotive
GET A GRIP. This runway traction test is part of a new
study by NASA, Transport Canada and the FAA to enhance safety of
airport ground operations and relieve airport congestion during bad
winter weather. The five-winter study will include braking tests
with ground vehicles and instrumented aircraft like this NASA
B-737. This test took place on a snow-covered runway at Jack
Garland Airport, North Bay, Ontario, Canada last week.
FOR AP DIRECT FROM NORTH BAY
GET A GRIP. NASA,Transport Canada and FAA researchers are
taking advantage of winter snowfall in North Bay, Ontario to
measure runway friction on slippery surfaces. Instrumented ground
vehicles and aircraft like this NASA B-737 are being tested at Jack
Garland Airport through Friday (Mar. 8). Results are expected to
enhance safety and help relieve airport congestion during bad
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