Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Slapping Some Paint

So the blog here went a little dark for a while lately.  That's because I had an assignment 100 miles from home that involved some pretty long days... 6 days a week.  The assignment was to repaint most of the taxiways and ramp at the Hilo Airport.

It started with two solid days of rain!

And you can't paint in the rain.  You can however eradicate existing lines and prep those surfaces for paint.  And that's the first step in the process anyway.  So we put in two solid days like the one above and got in good shape for whenever the sun decided to come out.  It was all just as well since you usually can't eradicate/prep and paint in the same day anyway.

In two days the crew cleaned and prepared over 24,000 feet of linework!

Two days of rain at sea level meant a good deal of snow on the peak of Mauna Kea.  Some of this is still there a couple weeks later.

On day 3 the crew hit their stride and got everyone involved.  At left and below you see them painting with a custom rig-mounted kit and a self-propelled painting buggy.

These are 6-inch wide double taxiway edge lines with a 6-inch gap.
Many of the surface painted runway designation signs like the one below were either faded or badly marked with rubber.  These clean up fairly well but the eradication process removes all the reflective glass beads so they have to be repainted.

The demarcation line on an airfield where you have to get clearance from the air traffic control tower to drive is called the "non movement" line.  Below one of the existing non movement lines has been prepped for paint and some of the black background "enhancement' paint has been placed.

The two lines, the solid and dashed lines, can be painted with an automated paint machine or as two solid lines using shingle as spacers for the dashes.  Here the crew has opted to use roofing shingles.  Later another black edge will be painted on the right side to fully enhance the line so it can be seen clearly in all weather and lighting conditions.

Eradication is done with ultra high pressure water blasting using a machine called a "Stripe Hog".  It blasts the surface with a spinning set of jets and vacuums the bulk of the debris into a holding tank.  The same machine can be used to remove rubber deposits on a runway.

Outlining a non movement line with black paint to enhance it
The two days following the first two days of rain saw the crew repaint 21,000 ft of the 24,000 ft they had made ready.  This included taxiway edge lines, taxiway centerlines, non movement lines, and an intermediate taxiway hold line (below).

Some of the lines being repainted were in pretty bad shape.  They had either been painted with a bouncing machine or the workmanship was less than perfect.

All paint (except black) is enhanced with reflective glass beads to make the lines highly visible at night and in wet conditions.  To ensure the proper amount of beads have been added the linework is immediately checked with a reflectometer.  This particular unit has GPS so readings can be tied to a location and it can be verified that the proper amount of tests have been conducted.  Results are averaged to account for anomalies, but none of the tests made for this project were below the minimum specifications.  Coverage and distribution of beads were all excellent.

The guys call these the "red boxes".  In aviation speak they are surface painted signs.  It's hard to read here but this one reads 8-26 denoting the runway designation facing the pilot.  Like everything else the details for uniformity of these are rigorous.  The numbers are painted using custom stencils.  Reflective glass beads are placed on both the white and red paint.  The entire red box is enhanced with a 6-inch band of black paint to make it stand out on the asphalt (or concrete if that is the surface).

The FAA now also requires that all major airports enhance the last 150 ft of taxiway centerline leading to a runway hold position line with dashes both sides of the centerline as shown below.  The details as to the width, spacing, and layout of the lines leaves no room for creativity.  There are even rules for how the "V" section of lines like these are to be painted.

And never far from anyone's mind is that all this is happening on an active airfield!  And not far from landing and take off operations either!

C-130 Transport doing touch & go landings

We also did some eradication to convert an existing radius centerline configuration into a "stub" taxiway layout.  This condition occurs when the distance from a runway hold position line to a taxiway intersection is less than 150'.

Once the new paint dries the curved sections are eradicated.

A fully repainted hold line, set of red boxes, and enhanced taxiway centerlines.

While working on the main ramp late Friday afternoon we also had to dodge an unexpected C-17 Globemaster dropping off troops.

Work on the main ramp during air carrier operations was an adrenaline junkie's dream job.  Luckily we had a ramp schedule in hand, but it still didn't account for all the ground vehicle traffic.  Somehow nobody ran over and tracked any fresh paint.  Amazing when you think about it.  We did new lead in lines to the gates, the number boxes, and stop bars at loading bridges.

Note the glass beads being deposited immediately after the paint spray.  This seats them on the surface properly.
All in all it was a good job.  The weather cooperated for the most part and everything that needed to get done got done efficiently.  The hours were long for everyone, and it involved a lot of driving back and forth for me, but we finished the most important stuff within budget and ahead of when anyone expected us to finish.  There's more to do, as there always is on an airport, so we'll be back.

Yeah, we'll be back, but not before making the rounds to several other airports.  The word now is that the next airport will be Lihue on Kauai.  Normally I don't do much on the other islands, but now and then something like this comes up where they call me in.  It's been years since I've worked on Kauai so getting up there again should be both a challenge and fun!  That one could be ready to start in a few months once the scope has been fully defined and the safety plans worked out and approved.

Stay tuned!


  1. WOW, thanks for letting us know the work involved in keeping the flying public safe! I hope they allow you some per diem for motel etc while on the other islands, sounds like you drove back and forth to Hilo! Love these work in progress shots and the explanation.

  2. That guy on the striper sure is a one of a kind.... very talented