Monday, January 30, 2012

30 January 2012: Runway Safety Areas Explanation

Hello Again!
In December I sent out an update that provided some answers to questions
raised during our November meetings, with a focus on the Kodiak Airport
runways: their dimensions and orientation, and how often they are used by
the different aircraft types, including commercial jets, turboprops, and
Coast Guard planes.  This update builds on that earlier message by making
the connection between runway use – particularly the type of aircraft
regularly using a runway – and the applicable runway safety area (RSA)
standards. I will also compare the standard RSA dimensions with what
currently exists at Kodiak Airport.
What is a Runway Safety Area?
In the Advisory Circular Airport Design (#150-5300-13; 1989), FAA has
described the RSA as
      “A defined surface surrounding the runway prepared or suitable for
      reducing the risk of damage to airplanes in the event of an
      undershoot, overshoot, or excursion from the runway.”
I’ll supplement that description a little.  By “defined” we mean the RSA
has published dimensions of width, as measured from the runway centerline
to both sides, and length, or the distance of safety area beyond the runway
end.  (We usually give these dimensions in feet).  So, not only is there
RSA at the runway ends, designed to offer aircraft undershoot or overshoot
protection, but it also is found parallel to and along the sides of the
runway.  This lateral safety area provides protection in case an aircraft
veers off during landing or takeoff.  Our analysis of Kodiak Airport RSAs
tends to focus on the runway ends, but each of the alternatives for Runway
18/36 also includes improvement to lateral safety area on the east side of
the runway near the Runway 36 end.  The attached, simple schematic from the
Airport Design Advisory Circular should help to illustrate the concept.
A way to establish that an RSA is “prepared or suitable for reducing the
risk of damage…” is by requiring it to be capable, under normal (dry)
conditions, of supporting aircraft that deviate from the runway without
causing structural damage to the aircraft or injury to its occupants.  RSAs
make airports and flying safer, and reduce the potential for an aircraft to
be damaged if a landing or takeoff has problems.  RSAs also make it easier
to get firefighting and rescue personnel and equipment to the scene of the
accident if an aircraft does deviate from the runway.
How are RSA Dimensions Determined?
The minimum size for a particular RSA (known as the Design Standard) can
vary depending on the type of aircraft expected to use the runway.
Generally speaking, the largest and heaviest aircraft regularly operating
on a runway dictates the RSA size.  At Kodiak Airport this aircraft is the
Boeing 737-400, operated by Alaska Airlines.  The Boeing 737-400 falls
within wingspan category Group III, which is based on primarily on an
aircraft’s wingspan and tail height,  and approach category of C, a
classification based on an aircraft’s speed when approaching a runway for
landing.  (In case you were wondering, all of the B737-series aircraft
using or potentially using Kodiak Airport, such as the B737-200 or newer
-700/800/900 series, fall within the same design categories and would
require the same RSA dimensions.)
What are the RSA Standards for Kodiak Airport Runways?
The RSA design standards for the Boeing 737-400 are
      Q 600 feet of approach (i.e., undershoot) protection on each end,
      Q 1,000 feet of overrun protection on each end, and
      Q 250 feet of lateral protection on either side of the runway
         centerline, for the length of the runway.  This equates to a
         500-foot wide lateral RSA.
Since most runways support arrivals and departures in each direction, the
600 feet of approach protection is incorporated in the 1,000 feet of
overrun protection.  The net result, for a runway regularly serviced by the
B737-400, is a 500-foot wide rectangular area centered upon the runway and
extending 1,000 feet beyond each runway end.
The description above is for what we might term a “traditional” runway
safety area.  Another option that requires a smaller footprint and still
complies with FAA’s design standards is to use Engineered Materials
Arresting System (EMAS).   I’ll have more information on EMAS in another
project update.
While RSA design standards are based on the largest and heaviest aircraft
regularly operating on a runway, smaller aircraft use the Kodiak Airport
and do not require the same RSA areas.  The Dash-8, flown by Era Aviation
several times a day into the airport, is also a group III category aircraft
based on wingspan, but it falls into approach category A because it has a
slower approach speed for landings.  Accordingly, the RSA design standard
for the Dash 8 is smaller than for the 737 aircraft:  300 ft wide by 600
long.  As I discussed in the last project update, both the Dash-8 and the
B737-400 regularly use Runways 07/25 and 18/36.  However, the required RSA
dimensions for those runways are based upon the design standard for the
larger aircraft, the B737-400.
Why is FAA Considering Expansion of the Kodiak Airport RSAs?
Public Law 109-115 states that not later than December 31, 2015, the owner
or operator of an airport certificated under 49 U.S.C. 44706 (such as the
Kodiak Airport) shall improve the airport's runway safety areas to comply
with the FAA design standards required by 14 Code of Federal Regulations
Part 139.  In other words, the RSAs at Kodiak Airport must meet the FAA’s
design standards, contained in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-13, by the
end of 2015.  The following information describes the extent of RSA
shortcoming on the runways ends at Kodiak Airport.
      Runway 07/25, the (almost) east-west runways
      Q Runway 07  Landings on this runway are from the west and
         departures are toward the east.  Although the RSA undershoot
         protection on Runway 7 meets FAA standards, the proximity of
         Barometer Mountain precludes virtually any landings by larger
         commercial aircraft.  Overrun standards are not met as there is no
         RSA on the east runway end.
      Q Runway 25  This runway is the opposite of Runway 07; landings are
         from the east and departures would be toward the west.  There is
         no RSA to provide undershoot protection for aircraft approaching
         over the water from the east, nor is there RSA on the west runway
         end to provide overrun protection.
      Runway 18/36, the north-south runways
      Q Runway 18  Aircraft approach this runway for landings from the
         north, over the Buskin River estuary, and take off to the south.
         There is no RSA on the north runway end to provide undershoot
         protection, nor is there RSA on the south end of the runway,
         toward the Coast Guard station, for overrun protection.
      Q Runway 36  Since this runway is oriented 180 degrees from Runway
         18, the directions of operation are reversed.  Aircraft approach
         Runway 36 from the south and depart to the north.  As with Runway
         18, there is no RSA on either runway end for overrun or undershoot
      Runway 11/29   These runways accommodate operations from and to the
      southeast, marine end of the runway or the northwest, interior of
      Kodiak Island. The runway safety area in place around Runway 11/29 is
      300 feet wide for the length of the runway and extends 600 feet
      beyond the ends of the runway.  This RSA meets the design standards
      for smaller commercial and larger general aviation aircraft, and no
      further improvement is required.
Federal law requires that RSAs at airports such as Kodiak comply with FAA
design standards.  Further, the owner or operator of such airports –
ADOT&PF is the operator at Kodiak – must meet those standards not later
than December 31, 2015.  Two of the runways at Kodiak Airport, 18/36 and
07/25, do not meet design standards for the largest aircraft regularly
using those runways.  FAA has initiated an environmental impact statement
to evaluate the effects of improving those RSAs.
I hope this information is useful.  Thanks again for continuing to stay
involved in this project.  Please don’t hesitate to call (271-5453) or
write ( if you have questions, comments or concerns.
Regards,  Leslie
(See attached file: RSA Schematic.pdf)
Leslie A. Grey
Environmental Protection Specialist
FAA - Alaskan Region, Airports Division

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kodiak Botanist Comments on FAA Rare Plant Survey Species Report

Stacy Studebaker, noted Kodiak botanist and author of Wildflowers and Other Plant Life of the Kodiak Archipelago, submitted the following comments to the FAA concerning the Rare Plant Survey Species Report.  As you will read, the report has major problems.

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for sending me the Rare Plant Survey Species Report.  I have read it over and have the following comments:

1)  The first aerial photo on page 6 does not specify the location within the study area. Buskin River?

2)  The photo of the sessile-leaf scurvy grass on page 4, figure 1, shows the plants mostly in fruit and not in flower even though it as labeled as being in flower.

3)  The photo on page 5, figure 2 is labeled "sessile-leaf scurvy grass and oriental popcorn flower in Woman's Bay".
     I don't see either species in this photo but instead, Spergularia canadensis (Canadian Scurvygrass) is poking up out of the shallow water.
     This is a common intertidal species within the study area but it is not listed on the species list on Table 1, page 3.

4)  Plagiobothrys is misspelled throughout the report as Plagiobothryus.

5)  This report appears to have been quickly put together. Given the misidentified plants in the photo on page 5, the accuracy of their findings in Woman's Bay is questionable. Did they really find Cochlearia sessilifolia and Plagiobothrys orientalis there? There is no photo documentation of Plagiobothrys in the report to show that they actually found it or correctly identified it.

With this report, what kind of "management" decisions can be made? The authors really did not add anything to the information that Carolyn Parker and I already supplied. There is nothing in the report that says that these rare plants would or would not be impacted by the various alternatives in the PDEIS.

Stacy Studebaker

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

UPDATE 18 January 2012

We have completed the Alaska Rare Plant Species Survey Report in support of
the analysis being done for the Kodiak Airport Environmental Impact
Statement.  This work adds to previous findings concerning the presence of
sensitive plant species in the Buskin River drainage just north of the
airport.  The report documents the results of the plant surveys conducted
by FAA's consultants last August, not only in the Buskin River estuary, but
also in estuarine habitats of drainages entering Women's Bay.
The report has been posted on the project website at  If you have any
questions about the report or other aspects of the EIS, please don’t
hesitate to e-mail or call me at 271-5453.  Leslie
Leslie A. Grey
Environmental Protection Specialist
FAA - Alaskan Region, Airports Division