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Rodriguez working at William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City Airport

posted Oct 6, 2015, 7:40 AM by Magda Antoniow   [ updated Oct 8, 2015, 2:45 AM by Louis Rodriguez ]

It doesn’t happen too often that one sees Marzena sitting at her desk and working in the office. This is because for the last few years, she is involved in a big project which takes place at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City Airport. A few days a week, she’s working as a survey data specialist and has the opportunity to take part in various aircraft simulations, experiments and tests conducted at the AC airport. What’s most amazing is that this is the first and only full-scale airport pavement test facility in the world. If you would like to find out more about this project and Marzena’s experience, here are some questions we’ve asked her recently:

Could you tell us something more about the project and facility?

The Airport Technology Research and Development Branch of the Federal Aviation Administration researches and develops airport operation safety procedures and engineering specifications and standards. The branch has two departments – Airport Safety and Airport Pavement. Rodriguez Consulting is working with the Airport Pavement branch to support their research projects. We work at the Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City Airport. The National Airport Pavement Test Facility (NAPTF) building is dedicated solely to airport pavement research. It’s a pretty big building: approximately 1200 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 40 feet high. The testing area inside the building is 60 feet wide and 900 feet long. It allows for constructing several pavement test sections and performing tests by simulating aircraft traffic. Each experiment has different objectives. It can be testing a new material type, testing different material layouts, evaluating joint performance, or evaluating or developing new design standards. For example, at present engineers are evaluating current standards on how many heavy aircraft landings a light weight airport landing lane design can take, before it impacts its strength.


What’s the goal of this project and what’s your role in it?

There are several experiments conducted at the facility. I am assisting SRA International as a Survey Data Specialist in preparing engineering drawings, controlling new construction design conformance, collecting survey and 3D laser scanner data, and processing the collected data. Rodriguez Consulting is involved in the following tasks:

·   NAPTF airport pavement research. As I previously stated, the objective is to build a test pavement, simulate aircraft traffic to the point of failure, and then reconstruct. A variety of pavement structures are being tested. At the design phase I prepare construction plans, section and profile drawings showing pavement materials, pavement painting plans, and testing instrumentation layout drawings. When the construction begins, I prepare stakeout coordinates for the surveyor to lay out proposed instruments. As construction proceeds, Rodriguez Consulting collects as-built positions of gages, and scans each material layer. Based on the collected point cloud, I perform a design conformance analysis for grade and thickness conformance, and I produce color coded variation maps (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). Rodriguez Consulting is also assisting at the testing stage of experiments. For example we collect 3D laser scan data after each vehicle trafficking phase to depict pavement deformations and cracks development. I process that data and produce color coded deformation maps (see Figure 3).

·   Field Instrumentation and Testing. The main objective of this project is to better understand long-term pavement behavior in the field under varied climatic and operating conditions, and to improve the characteristics of paving materials. Rodriguez’ role is to collect as-built locations and prepare as-built plans of test instrumentation.

·    National Airport Pavement and Materials Research Center (NAPMRC). NAPMRC is a new testing facility which was recently built. Rodriguez assisted during the pavement testing areas’ construction by performing design conformance analysis and as-built surveys. Currently we are working on establishing a control network for high accuracy data collection within both indoor and outdoor testing areas. 


Figure 1 Design Thickness Conformance Map


Figure 2 Color Elevation Map Created in Leica Cyclone




Figure 3 Color Deformation Map Created in Leica Cyclone



Which survey methods do you use? What technology do you use and why this particular one?

To perform stake-out and to collect as-built locations we use conventional survey methods. Each of the testing areas has the local coordinate system aligned with its center line. We’ve established several control points throughout the facility which we use as a reference points. We’ve also used GPS equipment to assign State Plane Coordinates to the control network; however local coordinates are easier to use for scientist and technicians. For survey data collection we use the Leica Nova MS60 and CS20 controller. It is top-of-line the world’s first self-learning MultiStation with scanning capability. The Leica Nova MS60 MultiStation comes with the revolutionary Captivate software turning collected data into 3D models. I use Leica Infinity software to view, process and export data collect in the field.

For 3D scan data collection we use a Leica P20 long range scanner delivering high quality data capable of performing under the toughest environmental conditions. We use the established control network to place scanner targets for scans registration. After the registration and unification process, a point cloud is georeferenced based on known control point coordinates. It is important for each point cloud to be placed in the same coordinate system to be able to see pavement deformation after each trafficking phase and to compare pavement layers thickness. To register scans and analyze the data I use Leica Cyclone software.


To create engineering drawings and as-built plans I use Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D 2016 software. It allows me to work with survey and GIS data to create 3D surfaces, dynamic section and profile views, and to perform engineering design analysis. The software is also capable of working with point cloud data. I use the Leica Cloudworx plug-in for additional 3D scan data modeling tools within the CAD environment.


What’s so significant about work happening there?

The National Airport Pavement Test Facility was the first and only full- scale airport pavement test facility in the world. The experiments performed at the facility concentrate on evaluating existing and developing new standards for durable, long life pavements for existing, as well as new and heavier aircrafts. This research center is a unique facility that allows FAA engineers to use custom-designed aircraft vehicle simulators to test pavement materials and instrumentation, including warm-mix and recycled asphalt. Working at this FAA facility, I have a chance to work with highly skilled engineers and scientists doing interesting work. I have a chance to use top-of-the-line surveying and scanning equipment, and work with the newest releases of software.

Why is this such a long term project? Are there that many large differences between runways in New Jersey, California or Alaska?

There are several experiments conducted at the facility at the same time. The pavement tests are so called a construction cycles. A construction cycle includes test pavement and instrumentation layout, traffic pre- and post-test plans, materials testing data, construction test data, traffic data and post-traffic testing (trenching activities and other tests), and pavement removal. Current plans are for the test pavements to be replaced and tested to failure on an 18- month cycle. However if a test section is very complicated to build, just the construction phase may take up to 2 years as all the construction materials have to meet design specifications. The facility is developing national standards; however field experiments are also conducted to study long-term pavement behavior in the field under varied climatic and operating conditions.

We’ve heard they have a new, similar facility. Can you tell us something more about it?

The new facility, National Airport Pavement and Materials Research Center (NAPMRC), is also located at the AC Airport, across the parking lot from NAPTF. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place on August 27, 2015. It consists of one outdoor and one indoor testing area – see Figure 4. The testing vehicle acquired for this facility is capable of insulating and heating the test pavement. It is the world’s largest and heaviest testing vehicle; it’s one-of-a-kind.



Figure 4 NAPMRC and NAPTF Point Cloud Data



Figure 5 The Heavy Vehicle Simulator-Airfields (HVS-A) Point Cloud Data


As you can see, working at the Technical Center at Atlantic City Airport has important value for airport operation safety, and for that matter our safety while travelling. Especially nowadays as we experience substantial climate changes, it’s important to make sure our infrastructure is solid and resistant. We are glad Rodriguez Consulting can be part of this project and contribute to the development of new procedures, standards and engineering specifications.



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