Synthetic Turf for Airports in the United States

Over the last few years, a number of U.S. airports have started to consider the use of synthetic turf to control and mitigate a number of specific airside problems. These problems, such as lack of drainage or serious soil erosion, could not be typically solved by conventional methods in a cost-effective manner. At airports, the extent of using synthetic turf has been limited to small demonstration projects mostly paid for by the synthetic turf manufacturers themselves. Each demonstration project was focused on one or more specific airport airside problems. The broad categories of problems were soil erosion, jet blast erosion, lack of drainage, foreign object debris reduction, visual enhancement, and wildlife mitigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not have specific standards to accept, install, and monitor synthetic turf. As a result, this study was conducted with the specific objectives to investigate the potential applications of synthetic turf at airports, to identify safety concerns, to address cost-effectiveness compared to other standard alternatives, and to list applicable acceptance and performance tests and standards.

There are several airports in the United States who have carried out synthetic turf developments projects. The followings are below:

  •          Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)—Five test locations to examine erosion, drainage, and visual enhancement: four sites installed during December 2001 were a taxiway, drain on island, island at runway and two strips at runway. One site installed on June 2003 was a strip at taxiway.
  •          Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)—Three test locations to examine erosion and visual enhancement.
  •          Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)—A single (2700 m2) test location to examine erosion.
  •          Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)—A single (3,050 m2) test location to examine drainage and jet blast.
  •          Honolulu International Airport (HNL)—A single (3,050 m2) test location to examine foreign object debris and drainage.
  •          San Francisco International Airport (SFO)—A single (4,570 m2) test location to examine jet blast erosion and foreign object debris on runways.
  •          Ocean City Municipal Airport —Two (1140 and 1810 m2) test locations to examine drainage and erosion issues. Additionally, two signs and six light cans have a special turf installation around them to mitigate damage caused by mowing.