Abu Dhabi Int'l Uses Artificial Turf for Airfield Safety & Marketing

Kathy Scott
Published in: 

Something special occurs as passengers gaze out the aircraft window when landing at their destination and taxiing to the terminal. An inherent optimism and enthusiasm about things to come takes over visitors, and the warm embrace of returning home floods locals.

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) appears to be tapping into the timeless, visceral emotions that affect even the most jaded frequent fliers by emblazoning a giant logo of Abu Dhabi Airports onto its airfield. (Abu Dhabi Airports is the entity that manages AUH and four other airports in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.) 

Etched into AvTurf along the ramp area, the 25-meter tall, 75-meter long logo essentially serves as an airside welcome mat for millions of passengers as they land at AUH. The monogramed turf was installed earlier this year to coincide with several capital initiatives launched in 2012 to meet the growing demands of the five Abu Dhabi Airports facilities.

Project: Artificial Turf Installation
Location: Abu Dhabi Int'l Airport
Applications: 25 x 75 meter airport logo; along edges of runway, high-speed exits & taxiways for visual delineation & soil stabilization
Product Supplier: AvTurf
Volume Installed: 120,000 sq. meters

The turf logo is an enticing element for passengers and travel professionals alike, and not the first at AUH. For years, the sprawling facility has captured the airport industry's attention with rapid expansion of its passenger base, airline operators and terminal infrastructure. Currently, it supports flight operations for 44 airlines serving 93 destinations in 54 countries and accommodates more than 12 million annual passengers. Within a few years, the airport expects to serve more than 20 million annual passengers. 

In June, Airports Council International named AUH the "Best Airport in the Middle East." The award was based on customer feedback, as measured by the association's Airport Service Quality program.

When asked to comment on the award, H.E. Majed Al Mansoori, chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports, assured his airport peers that the team at AUH will continue to work tirelessly to maintain its service levels "throughout the current period of challenging developments and projects."

Promotional or Practical

Beyond airport logos, the possibilities for other custom designs in aviation turf are nearly limitless, notes AvTurf President Daniel McSwain. While AUH uses specially marked AvTurf to market its own brand, McSwain suggests another thought-provoking idea: airports selling the naming rights to their facilities or displaying other paid images/messages on their airfields. AvTurf sees enough potential in the idea that the company applied for and obtained a patent for the specific marking method it uses for artificial turf in airport environments.

The product also has practical, safety-oriented applications. "It can be for any markings," McSwain specifies. "It's not limited to logos." The etchings can be applied to extend short lines, form segmented circles or create other airfield markings. They can also be used to add runway designators on general aviation runways and helipads made of artificial turf.

Temporary turf can be used when airports are inundated with additional traffic during high-profile, short-term events such as the Masters, Super Bowl or World Series, notes McSwain. Marked turf can help enhance safety in high-traffic areas such as ramps and aprons.

In addition to using AvTurf to display the airport operator's logo, AUH also uses it for more practical, everyday purposes. By installing it along the edges of Runway 13L-31R and around the edges of high-speed exits and taxiways, the airport provides visual delineation for pilots and increases soil stabilization to prevent erosion. In total, AvTurf installed 120,000 square meters of its product at AUH.

Other Applications

Artificial turf emerged in the United States in the early 2000s as a new way to eliminate soil erosion from jet blast, reduce foreign object damage to aircraft engines, discourage wildlife, improve drainage and enhance visual and operational safety.

McSwain has been working on the development of turf for various aviation applications and safety enhancements since the product's early days. His background in safety with the U.S. Air Force made transitioning to the civilian sector an easy one. Since 2003, he has sold and managed the installation of artificial turf at airports around the world, beginning with the first military aviation artificial turf installation in 2004 at the United States Air Force Academy.

In 2012, AvTurf installed the largest single area of aviation turf in the world - 1.4 million square feet at the Academy Airfield, a facility that averages more than 17,000 sorties and 5,700 hours of combined flight time per year. According to company officials, the artificial turf provides a better landing surface than the natural grass that was there before by reducing the effects of vibration from landing impact and roll, which are prime causes of material failure in fiberglass and carbon-fiber gliders that use the field.


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