The Federal Aviation Administration – FAA – dedicated today its new National Airport Pavement & Materials Research Center at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Egg Harbor Township in New Jersey. FAA engineers will use a custom-designed vehicle simulator to test asphalt and other pavement materials at high tire pressures and temperatures in search of ‘green pavement.’
Airport pavement temperatures can reach 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit as far north as New York City. Tire pressures can vary from 220 to 250 pounds per square inch on new generation aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350.
The vehicle simulator has an automated heating system that allows engineers to replicate and analyze the damage that heavy commercial jets can cause to the top asphalt layer when runways are hot. The vehicle was designed to mimic the behavior and weight of aircraft tires, and can show how repetitive aircraft operations affect pavement.
The new center allows the FAA to research environmentally friendly airport pavement materials such as warm-mix and recycled asphalt pavements. The FAA’s stated goal is to expand the use of “greener” materials, and pavement materials that are easier to install and can be modified to enhance pavement durability and strength. This in theory will help airport operators save money by lowering the costs of initial construction, maintenance, and repairs, and will provide a longer pavement life.
The FAA has not recommended the use of environmentally friendly airport pavement materials yet because research on the effects of aircraft tire pressure and heavy gear loads on green airport pavement materials has been limited.