The recent article in the March 2012 edition of Jane’s Airport Review, “Interest warms up in heated runway systems” points out the fact that airport officials remain generally opposed to the concept of heated runways because of high energy costs. It is true that the capital and operating costs of heated pavement are valid concerns, especially as an FAA official stated, ” …… when you’re talking about clearing a 10,000 ft runway.” The article, however, ignores the safety risk related to the two primary means for control of snow and ice accumulations on airside pavement surfaces.
Chemical treatments are effective for deicing and anti-icing applications. Some airports are restricted from using chemical agents, while others have problems with pollution of nearby ponds and rivers. In addition to other problems, there is a concern about the chemicals’ possible effect on pavement friction.
Mechanical means of dealing with snow and ice accumulation at an airport include snow plows, brooms, sweepers, sand application, etc. These pieces of equipment tend to operate at relatively low speeds. Wet snow and ice can develop a strong bond such that mechanical means of removal may often prove to be inefficient and might even be damaging to the pavement and imbedded lighting fixtures. The drawback is that they are working from the surface down and not always at the point of bonding.
When operations are conducted on runways and taxiways that have snow or ice on the surface, aircraft braking action is reduced—sometimes significantly. The reduction in aircraft braking action during winter conditions has contributed to aircraft runway overruns and excursions from taxiways, some of which have resulted in major accidents. A smart application of heated pavement to mitigate this safety risk would be a limited installation at the end of a runway, maybe the last 1500 – 2000 feet; and at critical intersections, which would increase aircraft braking performance. Increased braking performance would lead to safer landing, departure and taxiing operations for aircraft and reduce the probability of an incursion since equipment operators would spend less time on the airside.Share this article: