Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Manjriker Gunaratne, Ph.D.


Runway friction testing, Calibration constants, Random variable, Slip speed, Speed constant


Runway friction testing is performed in order to enhance the safety of aircraft operation on runways. Preventative maintenance friction surveys are performed to determine if there is any deterioration of the frictional resistance on the surface over a period of time and to determine if there is a need for corrective maintenance. In addition operational performance friction surveys are performed to determine frictional properties of a pavement surface in order to provide corrective action information in maintaining safe take-off or landing performance limits. A major issue encountered in both types of friction evaluation on runways is the standardization of the friction measurements from different Continuous Friction Measuring Equipment (CFME). The International Friction Index (IFI) has been formulated to address the above issue and determine the friction condition of a given runway is a standardized format.

The ASTM recommended standard procedure to compute the IFI of a runway surface employs two distinct parameters to express the IFI; F60 is the friction value adjusted to a slip speed of 60 km/h and correlated to the standard Dynamic Friction Tester (DFT) measurement. And Sp is the speed constant which is governed by the mean profile depth of that surface. The primary objective of this thesis is to investigate the reliability of the current ASTM procedure to standardize runway friction measurements in terms of IFI. Based on the ASTM standard procedure, two equipment specific calibration constants (A and B) are assigned for each CFME during calibration. Then, in subsequent testing those calibrations constants can be used to adjust the equipment measurements to reliable IFI values. Just as much as A and B are presumed to be characteristic of any given CFME, they are also expected to be independent of the operational speed.

The main objective of the annual NASA Runway Friction Workshop held in Wallops Island, Virginia, is to calibrate commonly used CFMEs such that all calibrated equipment would provide a standard reading (i.e. IFI) on a particular surface. During validation of the existing ASTM procedure using the NASA Runway Friction Workshop data it was observed that the single value-based IFI predictions of the calibrated CFMEs were inaccurate resulting in low correlations with DFT measured values. Therefore, a landing pilot should not be left to make a safe decision with such an uncertain single standard friction value because the actual standard friction value could very well be much less than this value. Hence a modified procedure was formulated to treat the calibration constants A and B as normally distributed random variables even for the same CFME. The new procedure can be used to predict the IFI (F60) of a given runway surface within a desired confidence interval.

Since the modified procedure predicts a range of IFI for a given runway surface within two bounds, a landing pilot's decision would be made easier based on his/her experience on critical IFI values. However, even the validation of the modified procedure presented some difficulties since the DFT measurements on a few validated surfaces plotted completely outside the range of F60 predicted by the modified method. Furthermore, although the ASTM standard stipulates the IFI (F60) predictions to be independent of the testing speed, data from the NASA Runway Friction Workshop indicates a significant difference in the predictions from the two testing speeds of 65 km/hr and 95 km/hr, with the results from the 65 km/hr tests yielding better correlations with the corresponding DFT measurements. The above anomaly could be attributed to the significantly different FR60 values obtained when the 65 km/hr data (FR65) and 95 km/hr data (FR95) are adjusted to a slip speed of 60 km/hr.

Extended analytical investigations revealed that the expected testing speed independency of the FR60 for a particular CFME cannot be supported by the ASTM defined general linear relationship between Sp and the mean profile depth which probably has been formulated to satisfy a multitude of CFMEs operating on a number of selected test surfaces. This very reason can also be attributed to the above mentioned outliers observed during the validation of the modified procedure.