Seek Professional Help

Paul Bowers

I recently read about an airport failing an FAA runway inspection because the glass beads in its markings had worn off and were not providing enough reflectivity. OK, that’s easily fixed, right?

Most airports would either contract the job out to a reputable airport markings firm or purchase the equipment and training to handle the work in-house.

But according to what I read, this airport chose a third path. Instead of spending money to hire an experienced firm to apply the markings or train its crews, the airport decided to simply purchase a sprayer, paint and beads. I can almost hear the rationale: “This can’t be that difficult; I’ve heard any monkey can do it.”

However, a number of questions spring to mind: Does the airport’s new paint sprayer include a dispenser that will apply glass beads simultaneously with the paint? Is the dispenser attached securely and calibrated properly? 

You don’t just grab a fistful of beads and throw them on top of the paint. 

What about preparation? What about training? Nothing was mentioned about that. Does the airport plan any type of surface preparation? Are the current markings flaking? Do they have any buildup of any dirt, mold or anything else that would prevent a new coat of paint from adhering to the surface? 

Simply applying a new coat of paint is hardly ever the right fix. 

Lastly, FAA’s Advisory Circular 5340-1 Revised Paragraph 1.3.8 says: “Personnel involved with the application of airfield surface markings should complete training which includes surface preparation, removal and application of surface markings and maintenance standards.”

Taking the initiative to do things yourself should be applauded. But that’s only half of the equation. Information or experience with proper marking management is also needed. Like many airfield projects, there are nuances about markings that are hard to know about without formal training. I hope the airport I heard about gets that help.


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