Gravel Airstrip Repair

5 Points to Ponder About Your Gravel Airstrip Repair

In Air Travel, Gravel Runway by Steve Vitale

While you’re probably used to easy travel between towns and states, there’s a plethora of places around the world that require a much more complex travel plan than just getting in the car. In fact, some destinations, like Antarctica or the Galápagos Islands, are only reachable by plane or a barge. In these cases, many everyday things easily become determinates for survival that are entirely dependent upon something as simple as a gravel airstrip. We provide a case study and five points to ponder when it comes to your gravel airstrip repair.

The Story of Gustavus, Alaska

Gustavus, Alaska understands the value of gravel airstrips very well. In Zachary Crockett’s article “How a remote Alaska town gets its groceries”, he conducts a deep dive into life in Gustavus, particularly how such an isolated town, where there are more moose than residents, access regular necessities like food. Gravel airstrip repair is part and parcel to their lives.

For a town like Gustavus, coordinating grocery stock requires buckets of creativity when securing product from vendors like the Juneau Costco or other undisclosed West Coast retailers. Not only is finding the product complicated, but it’s augmented by the fact that transporting it all the way to Gustavus requires elaborate strategies of transporting goods to freight shipping containers placed on barges to make over seven-hour journeys to the Alaskan town’s shelves. 

While many could say that any grocery store could share a similar timeline of long hours in semi-trucks carted across the US and barges moving across the Atlantic, Gustavus rests in a much more delicate state. If any part of the grocery’s travel up to Alaska is stalled, it has the potential to miss the critical barge that will eventually take it to the last frontier and leave the town without the needed supplies until the next ship leaves port.

The article discusses how this careful misstep has the potential to throw the 446-person town into survival mode. Crockett cites an instance where Toshua Parker, the owner of the local grocer, was unable to locate a supply of eggs and milk. By the time he found a supplier and the product was shipped, it missed the barge, setting the timeline back by an entire week.

For these small remote regions, having safe and secure passages are vital in keeping the community alive both economically and literally. While the article discusses waterways, air travel remains just as paramount. For these secluded regions, these aircraft carry similar timing concerns as well as keeping their gravel airstrip in repair for a continuous flow of supplies. Here are just a few considerations about why stable gravel airstrip repair is so important.

1. Pilots must make accommodations when landing on gravel airstrips 

When pilots land or take-off from gravel airstrips, there are a few accommodations they must make for safe movement.  One of the challenges gravel airstrips presents is foreign object debris, or FOD created from the loose gravel particle on the surface. As the surface unravels and deteriorates, it creates weak spots and surface defects that actualize as added friction when planes are landing and taking off from the gravel airstrip.

To adapt to this additional rolling resistance, pilots must account for increased takeoff distance to overcome the added rolling friction. The same increased distance also applies to landings as the braking system’s functions decrease, compensating for the unbound surface. 

Besides just added friction, high FOD levels are a signal that the gravel airstrip may be destabilized. With a dwindling structural integrity comes dwindling safety for the pilot as procedures and equipment and handling equipment may start to prove incompatible with the depth of the situation. This puts pilots in an alarming position. 

2. Gravel airstrip repair or aircraft damage – a dilemma you have to solve

Even with planes built for gravel airstrips or outfitted with special gravel kits, aircrafts have still been known to fall victim to damage, especially if the gravel airstrip has not been treated and in repair. As the surface of your airstrip breaks away, these fine particles fail to stay in place during heavy movement, and instead, make their way to the plane, causing immense damage to the plane as well as the pilot’s visibility. Likewise, this same cloud can make its way into the mechanics of the plane, causing damage to the turbines, the landing gear, or at the very least, scuffing the plane’s paint. 

These damages can rack up hefty bills that start in the thousands of dollars. But these bills don’t just affect airlines or owners. Depending on the status of your gravel airstrip repair, these expenses can be pushed onto airports instead.

3. Use Midwest’s SECUR® Stabilization System to double the lifespan of your gravel airstrip

Even with these financial and mechanical risks, there is a solution that can protect your gravel airstrip, keep future maintenance low, and even double its lifespan. And it starts with science.

Midwest’s SECUR® gravel runway stabilization system is designed using our patented synthetic fluid technology called EK35. The element of EK35 that makes it so essential to the SECUR® Stabilization System in treating gravel airstrips is its effectiveness at the molecular level. It’s applied into the first 4-6” of the runway where the viscous liquid reacts with the aggregate. The irreversible reaction transforms EK35 into an insoluble waxy solid, which locks the product and aggregate into the airstrip while stabilizing the surface and preventing dust. 

The SECUR® Stabilization System is a proven effective solution that not only solves gravel airstrip instability in the present, but it also strengthens it for the future. The binding nature of EK35 doesn’t just offer current support but provides added strength that only bolsters itself the more traffic the airstrip experiences. 

This surface strength is so immense that there is no need for continuous maintenance and can prolong your gravel airstrip’s lifespan. In comparison to periodic structural rebuilds that serve as the usual treatment for airstrips, these 15-20-year cycles can bring huge savings with incredible performance.

4. The SECUR® Stabilization System is the environmentally friendly treatment 

At Midwest, we don’t just stop at providing quality products. We go the extra mile to offer products that are entirely environmentally friendly no matter where they’re used. Our SECUR® Stabilization System locks into place and will not leak into surrounding vegetation, no matter the season, and we have the credentials to prove it with certifications from organizations like the EPA. 

For areas like Alaska that use gravel airstrips, the surrounding vegetation plays an integral role for the local ecosystem.

5. Custom application makes all the difference

The SECUR® gravel runway stabilization system, like all of Midwest’s solutions, comes as an entirely customized program. When you partner with Midwest, we conduct a full examination of your site, taking soil samples, so we can grasp the full scope of your situation. With this information in hand, we then build you a customized program. The custom applications give our product an even bigger edge over other solutions and give you the assurance that you need to maintain a safe and efficient operation for your gravel airstrip. 

Gone are the days of multiple applications with an armada of accompanying equipment. When you choose Midwest, you choose a long-term investment meant to keep you up and running for decades to come. Contact us today to start your gravel stabilization program.