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Don Nolan

Headquarters, Washington, DC March 15, 1996

(Phone: 202/358-1983)

Keith Henry
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
(Phone: 804/864-6120)

Angelo Boccanfuso
Transport Canada
(Phone: 514/283-0862)

Les Dorr
FAA Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/267-3461)

RELEASE: 96-52


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

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 countries.

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

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

"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 project.

Broad-based changes in the industry since the 1980's

strongly suggested a follow-up to the first 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 ground vehicle and instrumented aircraft studies
aimed at improving aircraft ground performance in bad
weather. NASA and the FAA worked together as early as the
1950's 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

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 travel.