Winter Runway Safety Study

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Aeronautics

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In cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada, NASA has initiated a new study of winter runway friction. Langley Research Center manages the NASA portion of the program. Several European aviation organizations and equipment manufacturers are also participating.

photograph of NASAs 737 test aircraft landing on a snow covered runway
NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada are teaming on a five-year winter runway friction investigation to enhance airport ground safety. Here NASA's instrumented 737 test aircraft is landing on a snow-covered runway at North Bay, Ontario.

The five-year government/industry study, called the Joint Winter Runway Friction Measurement Program, includes braking tests with instrumented aircraft and ground vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. The results are expected to enhance safety for all ground operations and help relieve airport congestion during bad weather. Additionally, the research will help industry develop improved tire designs, better chemical treatments for snow and ice, and runway surfaces that minimize bad weather effects.

A near-term program goal is improved flight crew recognition of less-than-acceptable runway friction conditions prior to the "go/no go" and "land/go around" decision points.

An initial set of tests was conducted at Jack Garland Airport, North Bay, Ontario using NASA's Boeing 737 Transport Systems Research Vehicle (TSRV) and a Canadian National Research Council Falcon-20. Surface conditions were artificially varied to expand the range of data collected. Many different 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 instrumented aircraft. Further evaluations were planned at Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine; water contamination tests were scheduled at NASA's Wallops (Virginia) Flight Facility and the FAA Technical Center.

Data from the program will be used to qualify the degree of improvement in measuring runway friction since NASA and FAA teamed on similar tests in the mid-1980s. There is need to evaluate improved measurement equipment, software and test procedures developed since the earlier tests, and there is need for data on new anti-icing and de-icing chemicals, water/slush drag effects on new aircraft, and tire construction effects on hydroplaning.

In a spinoff application, much of the equipment being used to monitor runways is being-or will be-used to measure highway pavement friction performance. In areas with high accident rates, pavement textures can be modified, on the basis of friction measurements, to improve the safety of auto travel.

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