Runway Surface Technology

Runway Surface Technology


A critical safety concern at airports is the runway surface condition. Snow, ice, water, and rubber deposits can result in slipperiness, causing aircraft loss of control during braking as well as making surface movements hazardous. In recent years, grooved runways to control surface water, has greatly reduced hydroplaning. However, aircraft accidents from overshooting or veering off contaminated runways remains a problem.

More than a hundred accidents involving aircraft overruns and veer-offs have occurred with in the last couple decades at US civil airports. The accidents involved runway surfaces which were either covered with water, ice, snow, or slush. Four notable accidents have focused national attention to the question of runway slipperiness and loss of control during landings and takeoffs. Accidents at Washington National Airport on January 13,1982, at Boston Logan International Airport on January 23, 1982, and at John F. Kennedy International Airport on February 28, 1984, resulted in complete loss of aircraft and 80 fatalities. Most recently, a Boeing 737 overran the departure end of runway 31C at Chicago Midway International Airport on December 8, 2005 resulting in one fatality. In each case, the factors contributing to these accidents were identified as runway slipperiness and an inadequate "safety area" beyond the end of the runway.

The goals of this program area are to eliminate runway slipperiness as a cause of accidents and to stop all aircraft within the extent of the runway. To achieve this goal, extensive research, testing and evaluation will be conducted to develop new techniques to remove ice, snow, and rubber deposits efficiently. Also, research will continue on developing methods to prevent ice and snow accumulations on runway surfaces. In addition, new materials and methods will be investigated to decelerate aircraft safely should there be an overrun.


Contact Project Lead: Joseph Breen



Last Update: 05/18/09