Writer seeks info on chip-sealing gravel runway

We have property on a gravel airstrip. The Board of Directors wants to chip seal the runway. Where can I find out about the strength, cost, endurance, upkeep problems, affect of temperature and any problems with chip seal? Thanks. Marilyn Emery Dear Marilyn Thanks for your inquiry seeking information about chip sealing a runway. I […]

We have property on a gravel airstrip. The Board of Directors wants to chip seal the runway. Where can I find out about the strength, cost, endurance, upkeep problems, affect of temperature and any problems with chip seal?

Thanks.

Marilyn Emery

Dear Marilyn

Thanks for your inquiry seeking information about chip sealing a runway.

I would suggest you contact your state’s aeronautics division (frequently a part of the department of transportation) for some thoughts relative to the manner in which such work is done in your state. You might also want to contact your city or county public works departments since they are the ones most likely to utilize such methods for road maintenance.

Check your local phone book for paving contractors for some additional good information on such methods of paving. I doubt the FAA will be much help on info about chip-sealing but you might try the FAA’s airports department in your area.

While I am certainly not well-versed on paving and chip-sealing, I’ve had a few dings in the windshield of a car when rocks flew up from the tires of the car in front of me on a newly chip-sealed street. I would have concern about those chips dinging up my prop as well as chewing up the belly of my plane and the leading edge of the elevator, but those are strictly my personal thoughts and aren’t based on any knowledge of such systems.

Please keep me posted on what you find out. Perhaps some other airpark residents or developers will enter their thoughts and practical experience into this discussion.

Dave Sclair

6 comments

  1. Bob Kibler

    A chip seal does not do well at all on a runway. There will always be loose rocks on the surface. Unlike a highway surface, a runway never gets enough traffic on it to seal in the chips. At the Desert Aire Airport, we had an old deteriorating chip seal surface on our runway. Airplanes here were always getting dinged props and tail surfaces. The runway only got fixed in 1995 when we paved it with hot mix.

  2. Received the following via email:

    WE HAVE BEEN TOLD BY A PAVING COMPANY THE CHIP AND SEAL AIRSTRIP WILL WORK OK IF THERE IS A SEAL COAT APPLIED ON TOP, TO SEAL ALL LOOSE ROCKS….RALPH LEMME, NORWALK LANDING, LLC

  3. Received teh following via email from Ed Shafer:

    In reply to your question: I developed anairport from a farm field 34 years ago and started with about 2 inches of crushed limestone 50′ wide and 2700′ long. It took 110 semi loads to do this. I wanted an all weather airport so I sprayed liquid asphalt followed by a coating of sand and then a second coat of asphalt (old timers call it oiling) and a
    second covering of sand. Chips get loose and ruin props and also tough on the underside of wings when the wheels fling the rock at the airplane. I rented a 5 ton roller and rolled as much of the sand into the asphalt while the asphalt was still hot.

    This worked well for about two or three years and then we started to get pot-holes in the spring of the year and had to do a lot of patching. This system worked fair and we had to re-coat the runway every three to five years to keep the integrity in good condition. We always used sand as the binding agent to eliminate bad nicks on the props and or chips in the wind shield.

    Two big factors:

    1. How thick is the base rock.
    2. how good is the drainage taking water away from the runway?
    Spring thaws are the hardest thing to live with, without good base the aircraft will make ruts in the pavement and will later cause cracking which lets water get under your surface and that is not good. During a severe thaw in the spring I would close the airport to eliminate the aircraft from cracking the pavement in its soft condition, this would usually be less than one week.In 1987 I worked out a joint plan with the state of IL and we overlaid the runway with 2 inches of asphalt and two years after that we received a federal grant to overlay with 2 more inches. We received this grant because we were considered a reliever airport to the St Louis metropolitan area. We have a 54,000 TO/landing count per year.

    This info is just the tip of the iceberg. I can explain much more to you if you would like to call me.

    GOOD lUCK ON YOUR PROJECT.
    Ed Shafer
    St Louis Metro-East Airport-Airpark (3k6)
    St. Jacob, IL 622281 Phone: 618-644-5411

  4. If the traffic volume on your gravel runway is low to moderate, there is a chemical stabilization alternative to chip seal that costs far less and will provide the same performance. Contact me if you are interested. mel.main@midwestind.com.

  5. It’s a difficult problem. I understand both sides of the argument because of how fairly you have presented them here. I look forward to your updates on the subject.

  6. Thanks for this super blog.

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