Friction testing running smoother

  • Published
  • By Charles J. Haymond
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management office has successfully installed a new system - the RT3 continuous friction measuring equipment, which tests the friction of the runway. After inclement winter weather, Airfield Management is responsible for testing the friction of the runways, taxiways and aprons - cleared aircraft movement is based on their results. 


“Testing the friction of the runway is important to maintainers and pilots,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kathryn Infantino, 55th Operations Support Squadron airfield management. “It allows them to know when it is safe for aircraft to be towed, take-off or land.” 


Until recently, this process required long hand math, held a high possibility of human error and could take hours. Not anymore. The new equipment is making the process more streamlined. 


The old system, was a hand-held device the airfield management personnel would place inside their vehicle while the RT3 is mounted on the back of the vehicle. Before, on areas such as the runway, the driver would have to break every 1,000 feet, copy down the old device’s reading and apply it to an equation.

“It calculated percentages and then the driver had to apply a formula to reach the desired reading,” said Infantino. “Our process is based on a scale of one to 18 with 18 being the best. In order for the runway to be safe, the reading must be an eight or higher.”


If the readings are below eight, the snow team is called in to continue plowing or application of de-icing chemicals. Afterwards, the process starts over again.


The RT3 no longer requires the driver to break every 1,000 feet and calculates readings on its own, eliminating human error. 


“With the previous model, it would take approximately 100 of these manual readings to complete the entire airfield,” said Gary Kaufman, 55th Operations Squadron airfield manager. “We have 12 different people qualified to perform these friction tests, so it’s difficult to replicate firmly applying the brakes for each reading.”


The RT3 system also provides more accurate pavement testing which saves the base money. In the last two years, the 55th Civil Engineering Squadron has spent over $336,000 in chemicals to de-ice the airfield.

The old system would also take hours.


“The RT3 is more accurate, more efficient, and it takes the humor error factor out of it,” said Kaufman. “It used to take approximately two to two and a half hours to test the entire airfield, and with the RT3, it takes between 45 to 60 minutes.”