Aluminium-coated runways to appear in Russia

Quickly assembled metal-covered helipad / Photo by © ANO North Ural

Russia’s first aluminium-coated runway for small and light aircraft will appear at a local airfield. This unusual for our country solution will create opportunities for the development of infrastructure of local and regional aerodromes and increase transport accessibility, including remote areas. RUSAL and MASS GROUP signed a corresponding agreement on cooperation in R&D and construction of an experimental runway made of aluminium, RUSAL’s press service reported.

With the participation of leading profile institutes, it is planned to perform a series of experiments and eliminate regulatory restrictions on the use of aluminium mats in runway construction.

“This will be the first such facility in Russia. The length of the experimental runway will be up to 600 m, and it will take approximately 300 tonnes of hardened aluminium alloy. Several operating aerodromes are being considered as possible options for its location,” RUSAL said.

According to Evgeny Vasilyev, director of market development at RUSAL’s Sales Directorate, aluminium runways will provide more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for the development of civil aviation, particularly in areas with difficult access.

“Due to its strength and anti-corrosion properties, aluminium can replace the traditionally used concrete, and due to the light weight of this material, transportation and construction costs will be significantly reduced. According to our calculations, the total price of a full-fledged runway including logistics, installation and operating costs will be 15-20 per cent lower than a concrete runway,” said Evgeny Vasiliev.

Alexander Sobolev, General Director of MASS GROUP JSC, noted that aluminium helipads have been successfully used in various regions of Russia, including in extreme climatic conditions. They ensure safety during take-off and landing of helicopters of any class, from light to the heaviest cargo vehicles such as Mi-26.

“The successful operation of aluminium coatings as landing pads for helicopters influenced the decision to develop an aluminium runway. This is a serious challenge for us, but we believe in the success of aluminium solutions. Together with the developer of aluminium aerodrome panels Sial Group and with the support of RUSAL, we plan to solve all technical problems, which will be a real breakthrough for the civil aviation infrastructure,” commented Alexander Sobolev.

The use of aluminium coatings for runway construction is not new. In the mid-1960s during the Vietnam War, US Navy Seabees construction battalions built runways for landing jet fighters F-4 Fantom, F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief and others. AM-2 aluminium mats were used to cover the combat airfields, which later became the standard solution for US Army airfield construction in Vietnam.