Protection of the C-17 Airplane during Semi Prepared Runway Operations 2009-01-3203
The C-17 airplane operates in some of the most challenging environments in the world including semi prepared runway operations (SPRO). Typical semi-prepared runways are composed of a compacted soil aggregate of sand, silt, gravel, and rocks.
When the airplane lands or takes off from a semi-prepared runway, debris, including sand, gravel, rocks and, mud is kicked up from the nose landing gear (NLG) and the main landing gear (MLG) tires. As the airplane accelerates to takeoff or decelerates from landing touchdown, this airborne debris impacts the underbelly and any component mounted on the underbelly. The result is the erosion of the protective surface coating and damage to systems that protrude below the fuselage into the debris path.
The financial burden caused by SPRO damage is significant due to maintenance costs, spares costs and Non-Mission Capable (NMC) time. A study was commissioned by Air Mobility Command in 2007 to develop integrated solutions to protect the airplane from damage during SPRO operations.
This paper summarizes the results of the study, including damage to the airplane when exposed to different types of SPRO environment, solution concepts, the method of selecting the solutions and the solutions being implemented for protection of the C-17 airplane.