When an airfield paving project starts, Burns & McDonnell draws on our extensive background on general aviation, military and commercial airport paving projects, including pavement analysis and design, subgrade stabilization techniques, or airfield lighting.
It would be easy to describe innovation and excitement in the world of airfield pavement as flat. But the design and construction of taxiways and pavements has come a long way, requiring levels of smoothness, constructability and durability unequaled in other fields.
The process starts with specification requirements for the pavement mix, using the latest quality tests for materials and developing a mix design. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense have strict requirements for quality and construction standards.
When an airfield paving project starts, Burns & McDonnell draws on our extensive background on general aviation, military and commercial airport paving projects, including pavement analysis and design, subgrade stabilization techniques, or airfield lighting. A successful paving project requires several upfront steps before the final pavement is placed.
For example, the reconstruction of the airport terminal aprons at Kansas City International Airport necessitated a thorough understanding of the underlying problems causing the current pavement issues. During the design phase, Burns & McDonnell engineers discovered that the underlying soils were overly saturated, causing the pavement to heave when subjected to winter freeze-and-thaw cycles. To remedy, we incorporated a slurry lime into the subgrade to stabilize the soils. An underdrain system drains excess groundwater into the storm sewer system. This solution provided a stable working platform for paving the cement-treated base and the Portland cement concrete pavement.
Tools of the Trade
Modern paving equipment enables contractors to provide smooth, durable pavement to meet or exceed government and project owner requirements. New slip form pavers include:
- Hydraulically powered leg columns for grade control
- Fully proportional sensing system for automatic steering control
- Augers strike-off beam tied to auto-grade
- Profile pans with power crown for straight or crown configurations
- Adjustable end pad over-build to compensate for edge slump
Combining these built-in features with a quality mix will provide years of great service to the owner — and the ultimate user, the passenger, who experiences an enhanced taxi, takeoff and landing experience while on board the aircraft.
A successful airfield paving project, however, must also allow airport operations to proceed with minimal disruption, benefitting both the airport owner and the traveling public. During any airfield paving project, it is critical to work with the airport operations group to determine an area that can be taken out of service without impacting airfield operations. For example, during a recent runway overlay project at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Mo., Burns & McDonnell project managers and engineers walked the entire site with the airport manager and contractor to determine the placement of construction barricades so the intersecting runways and taxiways could remain open without restrictions.
The FAA air traffic control tower manager was involved in all meetings so controllers knew at all times which taxiways were closed and which ones were open. This continual communication resulted in a project without any incursions or delays on the active airfield.
A detailed construction phasing plan helps the airport owner schedule all airport activities around construction areas and times. Burns & McDonnell has developed phasing plans that take into account these and other issues to minimize the impact to operations:
- Where the contractor must install the barricades to separate construction from operations
- How the contractor gets to and from the work area with minimal crossing of aircraft taxi routes
- Which aprons, taxiways or runways are open to aircraft traffic and the appropriate traffic control devices to define these
- How personnel and ground support equipment maintain service access to aircraft parked at gates
- Submitting and receiving approval for these plans from all affected entities
Thorough upfront planning and design — combined with regular, clear communication among the owner, users, contractors and the engineer — can lead to a successful, well-executed airfield project. The end product — a smooth, high-quality pavement — will serve the owner and the flying public for years to come.