Many of us have summer projects involving paint. Paint the house. Paint the kitchen. The deck. The bathroom. The kid's room. The runway ...
Yes, every summer we paint the runways. No nice mauve or baby blue — we go strictly by the book: black, yellow, white. And we don't stop with the runways — we do the taxiways, the tarmacs, and any other piece of pavement that requires it.
Painting at the airport can be tricky at times: the painting machines are notoriously fussy; the summer heat drives pavement temperatures to well over a hundred degrees; sometimes you have to quit painting in a hurry and let an expected flight land. And then there's the matter of neatness. If everything isn't perfect the Federal Aviation Administration can ding us during our annual safety inspection.
We thought you might like to have a behind the scenes peak at our annual painting ritual ...
The first thing you have to do is close the runway that needs painting. Among other things it requires hauling a big X to each end of the runway. The Xs have bright lights mounted to them.
Approaching pilots will see them and know that the runway is closed. The photo gives an idea of how big the painting project is. The distance from the X to the other end of the runway (in the background) is approximately 7,000 feet. And all those pavement markings you see have to be repainted.
As mentioned earlier, painting machines are fussy; sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Nozzles get clogged. Air pressure on the lines can go south in a heart beat. Alignment mechanisms go askew and suddenly you've painted a crooked line.
The job of keeping things on the straight and narrow falls on the backs of the Airfield Maintenance team. In the photo on the left Kevin Rhoten (L) and David Chamberlin (R) discuss the latest round of orneriness from the painting machine. That tangle of tubes shoot three colors of paint, plus tiny glass beads. The beads make the paint reflective at night.
The painting machine is mounted on the back of a small flatbed truck. The arrangement includes barrels of paint, beads, a generator to run an air compressor (that clanks all the time), and just enough room for the an operator. In the photo on the right-below David Chamberlin makes sure the paint goes where it's supposed to.
The box-like contraption hovering above the pavment houses the paint nozzles. The truck driver drives slowly (less than 10 mph) and Chamberlin (on the back) monitors progress. That edge stripe they're painting is 36-inches wide.
It'll take four weeks to finish the entire painting project, along with thousands of gallons of paint, thousands of pounds of glass beads, and more than a few tubes of sunblock.