Runway research plans are taking off at USC | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Runway research plans are taking off at USC

Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Sean Jamieson is launching into research at the University of the Sunshine Coast that could help revolutionise how Australian runway surfaces are built.

The 31-year-old airfield engineer is the first Australian Defence Force (ADF) officer to be seconded to USC for a one-year research project and to complete a Master of Science.

The project forms part of the Airport Pavement Research Program – a partnership between USC and the Australian Airports Association in collaboration with the ADF – that aims to put one RAAF airfield engineer into a master’s degree every year for the next four years.

Flight Lieutenant Jamieson will research how to build airport runways using stone mastic asphalt, under the supervision of USC’s Airport Pavement Research Program Director Dr Greg White.

“If stone mastic asphalt was used, it would remove the requirement for ‘grooving’, which is normally required on runways,” Flight Lieutenant Jamieson said. “Airports could save about $600,000 per runway resurfacing, which is one reason why the defence force and industry wants it investigated.”

Grooving airport runway surface improves grip for planes, especially in wet weather.

However, the coarse surface texture in stone mastic asphalt – developed in Germany more than 50 years ago – could remove the need for the expensive grooving practices.

Flight Lieutenant Jamieson, who recently moved from Brisbane to Mooloolaba, said he liked the modern focus of USC.

“I want to learn something I can use in my work,” he said. “This research is what industry wants. It’s likely it will be implemented in the future too, so it’s given me an achievable outcome at the end, which I’m looking forward to.”

Dr White said the program would help plug a generational gap in runway pavement research in Australia.

“Our program is the first structured and coordinated program to update and improve airport pavement technology and practice that our country has had since the 1990s,” Dr White said.

- Tom Snowdon

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