Airport Technology - Kirstie Pickering

The maintenance of airport runways is crucial for passenger and crew safety, and removing hazardous rubber is a particular priority.

When a plane lands, each tyre leaves up to 1.5 lbs of rubber on the runway. When you consider an Airbus A380 has 22 tyres, the volume of the problem becomes clear.

A build-up of rubber on a runway makes the surface smooth, which is a huge issue. As a plane lands, the friction of the tyre hitting the concrete helps slow it down –  the smoother the runway, the lower the friction.

Without that friction, it’s significantly more difficult to stop and control a plane – especially in wet conditions – and harder to see runway lines. It also creates an increased risk of foreign object debris (FOD).

Alex Groom, business development manager at Jetting Systems, explains that large international airports clean their runways three to five times per week. Each session takes up to four hours and typically takes place at night when the runway is closed.

Regional or less busy airports may undertake rubber removal at scheduled periods throughout the year. Hub-type airports that rely on connecting flights 24 hours a day have less time, so can utilise runway shutdowns or scheduled maintenance periods.

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