A departure of a plane is a matter of few minutes. Just a few of the general public knows, what precedes to such a departure, what all airport staff must do for a safe take off and landing as well as for smooth and comfortable flight. Therefore, we have prepared a small series that will introduce you to some special technical equipment, which Pardubice Airport has in its "stable".
Part 1 - airport’s special car Skoda Octavia ASFT (Surface Friction Tester)
The yellow Skoda, sometimes racing through the area of the Pardubice airport, would not be sought any modern special, but this car measures the braking effects of the runway and helps both civilian and military pilots. The luggage compartment of this specially modified car is hiding the shoulder with a fifth wheel, which is geared so as to rotate slower than the rear axle of the car and therefore simulates braking effects. The calibration surface friction measurements which determine the condition of the runway and their braking effects are usually carried out annually due to the regulation of Civil Aviation Office. Based on the outcome of the measurement it is than decided if any special maintenance is needed (e.g. removing the buildup of rubber residue from tires).
Routine measurements are used to determine the current (friction) effects depending on the actual weather conditions, airport technicians conduct this on request of the air control tower or the crew, which is heading to Pardubice Airport. In winter, for example, the runway friction conditions are measured before and after clearing the snow; the same is done during summer period - after the rain. Injecting a stream of water with a width of 1 millimetre below the measuring wheel can simulate hydroplaning conditions while it is dry. This way you can predict the behaviour of an aircraft in the rain.
Runway condition is evaluated in three minutes via the computer inside the car and all necessary information are send to the air control tower of the airport and to the crew who requested that measurement. Staff who is taking care of the airport area decide on the basis of these values whether the snow, ice or water needs to be removed.
Two years ago, when the Pardubice Airport purchased this car, Skoda Octavia ASFT was the most advanced vehicle of this kind in the Czech Republic. Following the example of Pardubice Airport the Prague Airport also purchased its own car a year later.