Refined airport design standards: More than meets the eye

Posted in: Aviation

Mark Breukink presented at a recent American Association of Airport Executives Great Lake Chapter meeting with an FAA representative and another consultant. Mark’s slides highlight some of the consultant experiences and lessons learned from use of the new AC over the past few years.

FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5300-13, Airport Design, literally shapes our airports in the United States. Its standards establish Aircraft Design Groups, safety areas, set back and separation requirements, pavement widths, design standards, runway protection zones, and many other requirements. In 2012 the FAA revised the Airport Design AC to incorporate new standards and technical requirements, while simplifying and clarifying airport design standards.

Now after using these planning and design standards for three years, we have lessons learned we can use to help our clients traverse the process. For example:

The updated AC includes what appears to be a minor change in longitudinal grading standard for runways. However many of our nation’s airport runways were designed precisely to the previous standard. This means bringing the runway into compliance with the new grading standard can potentially require extensive modifications and be very costly.

Airport sponsors should be aware that there has been a change in the grading standard. Any runway rehabilitation projects may need to include some investigations and preliminary engineering to determine whether the runway meets the current design standard. And if they do not meet the standard, you’ll need to know the extent of the changes required to meet the standard.

Once the quantity of work to meet the standard is known, then a discussion with the FAA Airport’s District Office will determine whether it is practicable and if funding is available to bring the runway into compliance. You may also discuss whether these improvements can be deferred to a later date or whether a modification-of-standard is appropriate.

Runway Incursion Prevention is also a hot ticket item for the FAA and will be a major focus in the coming years. The Airport Design AC includes expanded discussion on the Runway Incursion Prevention geometry for new construction. All planning and design projects should include consideration of layouts and/or modifications that could facilitate Runway Incursion Prevention.

Pavement fillet standards were revised in the AC and include new geometries to more closely track aircraft gear movements through a turn, thereby reducing the amount of unneeded pavement. The AC defines the minimum amount of pavement required and includes some sharp angled edge corners around some of the fillets. For maintenance and constructability purposes we typically recommend softening these corners with radii fillets.

Some of these updated design standards in the Airport Design AC may have significant project and cost impacts. We recommend early coordination with the FAA, particularly when evaluating rehabilitation projects, regarding when it is “practicable” to modify the pavement to meet current design standards.

Below are my slides from the Airport Executives Great Lake Chapter August 2015 meeting.

Mark Breukink, PE

About the Author

Mark Breukink, P.E., is a Business Unit Leader for Mead & Hunt’s Aviation Services managing the aviation planning, engineering design, environmental, and project management services in the eastern U.S.  Mark is active with Airports Council International – North America and is a member of their Operations & Technical Affairs Committee. Outside of work, Mark is an avid sports fan cheering on his alma mater Michigan State University.

Read more posts by Mark Breukink, PE

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