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Benefits of Subsurface Drainage System in Airport Pavement Performance


It is a common practice to incorporate positive subsurface drainage features into airport pavements to address surface infiltration water. The use of such features usually increase the cost of construction and raise the question whether the increased construction cost is offset by a proportional increase in pavement performance.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration specification (AC 150/5320-5, G-3.3.1) and Department of Defense specification (Unified Facilities Criteria 3-260-02) outline the criteria for requiring a subsurface drainage system, there has been no study dedicated to summarize the best of practices and to verify the benefits of using such systems. In addition, although the specification states that certain subsurface drainage layers could be considered as base layers in pavement design, the FAARFIELD design software does not consider any factors of drainage in the calculation, which may result in under- or over-estimate of the design thickness.


The objectives of this research would be to

1) To summarize the best of practices through survey of airports and consultants.

2) To evaluate the effectiveness of subsurface drainage configurations by investigating field performance of airport pavements with and without drainage features.

3) To quantify the cost and benefits of including subsurface drainage by comparing any potential extension in service-life with increased construction and maintenance costs.

4) To formulate recommendations of subsurface material properties and the FAARFIELD implementation.

Related Research:

· FAA Advisory Circulars, 150/5320-5D - Airport Drainage Design, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington D.C., 2013

· Unified Facilities Criteria, UFC 3-260-02, Pavement Design for Airfields, Department of Defense, Washington D.C., 2001

· Kathleen Hall, and Carlos Correa, Effects of Subsurface Drainage on Performance of Asphalt and Concrete Pavements, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 499, Transportation Research Board, 2003

· Vincent C. Janoo, Robert Eaton, and Lynette Barna, Evaluation of Airport Subsurface Materials, US Army Corps of Engineers Cole Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, 1997

· Harry Cedergren, Ken O’Brien, and Jorge Arman, Guidelines for the Design of Subsurface Drainage Systems for Highway Structural Sections, FHWA-RD-72-30, FHWA, 1972


1) Perform literature search and review

2) Conduct agency industry survey

3) Conduct site visits of agency and industry representatives

4) Develop guide document for best practices

5) Review and identify model for unbound layer and subgrade

6) Develop a plan for treated and untreated permeable pavement models that can be incorporated in FAARFIELD


American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Airfield Pavement Committee, Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center, and Engineer Research & Development Center at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sponsoring Committee:AKP30, Design and Rehabilitation of Asphalt Pavements
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Dr. Richard Ji at Federal Aviation Administration and Dr. Danny Xiao at University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Date Posted:10/04/2017
Date Modified:10/16/2017
Index Terms:Airport runways, Pavement performance, Subsurface drainage, Pavement design,
Cosponsoring Committees: 

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