FAA-required material failed
When the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport implemented a fog-sealing project this summer to protect asphalt on the runway, a new problem came to light. Workers noticed deterioration in the joints between the eight panels that make up the runway. Airport director John DeVore explained that there are nine seams on the runway, each 9,400 feet long.
“When we did the fog seal and took the paint truck out to put striping on the runway, we came across a seam that was still tacky,” he explained. That crack seal was three years old, but when they drove across it the crack seal pulled up. They found that deterioration had occurred, allowing water to enter the seams, and subsequent freezing and thawing throughout the winter has the potential to cause significant damage.
“Most of the damage is on the north side of runway toward the edge, so far the seams in the touch-down zones are holding,” DeVore said. “But that’s why we felt we needed to do something to get us through the winter and not run the risk.”
DeVore had been working with the Colorado Aeronautics Division to identify a material that could be used to patch the damaged areas. “The idea is we mill one foot wide, one inch deep in areas that need to be repaired and apply this material to get us through the winter,” DeVore explained.
The Division has used the material at other airports with success, and offered the airport an emergency grant to fund the repair.
At the Division’s suggestion, DeVore applied for a grant of $166,667 with a local match of $16,667 and state funds of $150,000. DeVore said the airport fund could cover the local match, and the repairs will be completed after-hours and before the winter season. That will prevent any interruption of winter air service due to severe damage, and buys DeVore time to find a more permanent solution—something he hopes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for.
In a background letter DeVore wrote to the County Commissioners, he explained that the runway was rebuilt in 2004 as part of a $10 million project. The project included the use of Trinidad Lake Asphalt at the request of the FAA “as an ‘experiment’ to determine its longevity. Since that time we have learned that other airports that used this product have had to replace it. Two examples are Salt Lake and Boston/Logan.”
DeVore has been in negotiations with the FAA over the payment of any permanent repairs since the airport followed FAA specifications and the use of the material was an experiment. In the event that the FAA does not opt to help finance the repairs, however, he indicated that he might ask the commissioners to get involved.
“I don’t think I have ever recommended this board get the congressional delegation involved, but in this case if the Denver office [of the FAA] says no way, this is your problem you fix it, then…”
“Absolutely,” Commissioner Hap Channell said. The commissioners were in support of the temporary repairs and seeking FAA funds for permanent solutions. “It seems like we’re living on borrowed time,” Channell said. The Colorado Aeronautics Division will officially consider the emergency grant on September 14.