Evaluating airfields for aircraft suitability can be an arduous task when heat and wind are part of the work environment. Airfield pavement evaluation, or APE, team members recently experienced this firsthand when they performed an airfield pavement evaluation at Hill Air Force Base.
An Air Force Civil Engineer Center Operations Directorate APE team traveled to Utah with equipment in tow as part of an effort to conduct eight-year reviews of base airfields in the western United States. Typically, a team evaluates 30 to 32 installations annually and provides timely and accurate airfield pavement evaluations, technical recommendations, innovative equipment solutions and software assistance to design and manage pavements at home-station and in expeditionary environments worldwide.
During airfield pavement assessments, the team reports on structural integrity, load bearing capabilities and surface condition characteristics on all airfield pavement systems — both surfaced and semi-prepared — that support current or potential Air Force missions in continental U.S. and contingency locations. The APE team also proof-loads aircraft trim pad anchors to ensure their integrity and safe utilization, and provides runway surface characteristics evaluations to determine dynamic hydroplaning potential.
Waiting for a coring machine to drill a 6-inch diameter hole through pavements up to 50 inches thick can take time, especially if it includes natural river rock aggregates formed by geologic processes over thousands of years. Typically, it takes approximately 30-60 minutes to obtain core samples and conduct soils testing in a discrete location on an airfield. During the Hill AFB assessment, one of the 199 core samples retrieved took more than four hours to drill out.
“The Airfield Pavement Evaluation team is the only Department of Defense unit that is capable of providing full-spectrum airfield pavement evaluations at contingency locations,” said Capt. Andrew Jouben, an APE team chief at AFCEC. “Our evaluations help establish the baseline condition of foreign airfields prior to operational use to ensure safety of flight and limit potential future U.S. liability for damages.”
The evaluations are crucial for ensuring mission readiness.
“In order to remain trained and ready, we provide technical support for the evaluation, management, design and construction of airfield pavements at all Air Force main operating locations, providing critical information used to support enterprise-wide asset management decisions,” Jouben said. Our recommendations not only help local installation civil engineers and airfield managers make timely decisions to assist in operations, pavement management and maintenance, and project programming, but also have big implications in terms of resource allocation and funding.”
The team executes assessments with three separate deployment teams trained and equipped to perform expedient airfield evaluations anywhere in the world on short notice. Reports include critical information for enabling base and major command planners to determine which aircraft can safely operate on each airfield as well as justify and prioritize airfield maintenance and repair projects.
“Every member on the APE team has multiple, difficult roles to fulfill and, in order to make every evaluation a success, every member on the team must put forward a tremendous amount of effort to successfully accomplish an evaluation, typically working 12- to 14-hour days, seven days a week to get the mission accomplished,” said Master Sgt. Robinson Hidalgo, superintendent of the AFCEC APE team.
Additionally, an APE team conducts joint training on contingency airfield evaluation procedures and provides contract oversight of airfield pavement condition index surveys as well as airfield damage repair initiatives. The reports generated by the APE team are used to assist mission and contingency planners in determining which aircraft can safely operate on an airfield, identify, prioritize and justify airfield maintenance and repair projects and develop, confirm and validate design criteria for new construction on an airfield.
To learn more about the APE team, contact the AFCEC Reach Back Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-283-6995.