November 2007 Issue

Contaminated Runways

Unstabilized approaches claim their share of runway excursions, but slick pavement plays a major role as well.

It was a dark and stormy night. Nigelís forehead was wet, as wet as the runway appearing through the clag parted by the VLJís nose racing toward its destination and its fate. Sally would be waiting on the tarmac and, together, they would set things right. If only he could slow his racing heartóand this Vref+25 knots approach." Are these the opening lines of the worst aviation novel ever? Possibly, but more likely they describe the factors contributing to another NTSB report on a contaminated runway overrun. With everything from homebuilts to composite production planes enlarging speed and weather envelopes, and with the coming promise of a very light jet (VLJ) in every hangar, the stories of planes sliding off runways are bound to increase. Much has been said about the evils of the unstabilized approach but its sinister sister, the slick runway, gets only a slight mention that masks the starring role it plays in many aviation accidents.

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