Imagine the damage a small piece of concrete an inch in diameter can do if it’s picked up in the blast of a jet engine. It can rip a hole in aircraft body panels, damage propellers, crack windshields, and even injure airport personnel on the ground.
After a 70 year run, concrete at the Great Bend Municipal Airport ramp is crumbling and thanks to a 2012 Federal Aviation Administration grant, airport manager Martin Miller and his staff began implementing a plan to accommodate a five month, $3 million ramp renovation project which began Monday morning.
“We hope to accommodate all sorts of traffic loads during the project,” Miller said. “There will be inconvenience and taxiway closures, but we have no runway closures.”
Burns and McDonnell of Kansas City, Mo. is the project supervisor, and the primary contractor is APAC of Hays, Miller said.
The ramp, in layman’s terms, is like a great big parking lot for airplanes. Planes land on the runway, then taxi to the ramp for passengers and baggage enter or exit the aircraft. In larger airports, passengers board and deboard at the gate before the plane taxis back to the ramp to park or to await their turn to take off.
“The ramp has to be monitored on an almost daily basis for rocks from the deterioration of the ramp,” Miller said. “Normally, we pick them up by hand.” That may seem tedious, but it is necessary.
“We also utilize the sweepers from the street department but success is limited,” he said. “The brooms tend to break loose more than they sweep up. That is why the ramp reconstruction was so critical to the airport.”
Foreign Object Debris (FOD) is a problem at small and large airports, according to a 2010 report by Boeing aircraft, “Challenges to Airport Ramp and Runway Debris Control”. It can range from degraded concrete to passenger litter, stray animals, people, snow and ice, or even airplane parts that have vibrated loose. It can be picked up by the plane as it taxis onto the runway, and dropped, where it then becomes a projectile, flying off tires or blown back from the turbo blast of a jet engine. The debris damages windshields and body panels of aircraft, propellers or jet engines, or can be hurled at the airport or personnel on the ramp or runway areas. Pieces as small as a fraction of an inch can be very dangerous.
The GBMA ramp was built during World War II when the airport was used for launching B-52 bombers. The project will include the complete removal of asphalt and WWII era concrete, Miller said. It will be replaced by a nine-inch thick base layer of crushed WWII concrete and topped by eight inches of new concrete. All exposed subsoil will be treated with a fly-ash material to prevent moisture from degrading the subbase of the ramp, he said. The new ramp will have a 30 year life cycle.
Great Lakes Airlines boarding and deboarding area may be relocated as necessary. Miller anticipates no interruptions with service.