“This airport sees some of the largest aircraft flying today, including “The Dreamlifter,” which Boeing uses to transport entire wings of commercial aircraft,” he said. “We are bringing the runway up to new FAA specs designed to better handle these – and larger – aircraft as the airport moves forward. Obviously they have a very decent niche with all this cargo traffic and I’m sure they want to maintain that position; this will help them do that. We are contracted to widen the structural section of the runway. So, while the footprint of the runway will remain essentially the same, the weight-bearing section of it will be widened by some 65 feet.”
Upgrade work at TSAIA started in 2018 when QAP did a small 1500’ section of runway to gain familiarity with the technique they would use for milling the entire structure: Topcon Millimeter GPS. However, work began in earnest on April 1 with the shutdown of runway 15/33, and the diversion of all traffic to the east-west runway 07/25 at the southern end of the airport.
“We enjoy a great relationship with Colaska and worked hard to win them over,” said Williams. “They’d been using GPS gear from another manufacturer and we knew they could benefit from what Topcon had to offer. We sat down with Joe Webb, Robb Dunn and Mike Fizette and showed them all that was available, finally doing a ‘Fly and Try’ into Topcon’s Livermore, California test center. There, each potential user got a chance to see and test the technology that could improve their effort. Today, thanks to their commitment, they are one of our best proponents of GNSS solutions, and it showed out at the airport.”
The lineup QAP brought to bear at TSAIA was impressive indeed. It included:
- Three dozers: a John Deere 850, a Caterpillar D6N with 3D-MC MAX, and a Caterpillar D6T with 3D-MC2 machine control
- A Caterpillar 16M Motor Grader running twin 3D-MC
- A Komatsu 1200 Excavator with X-53i indicate-only GPS
- A Wirtgen W2501 Milling Machine with dual Millimeter GPS
- Two Caterpillar F Series pavers
- A pair of Caterpillar CB-68B Rollers
- A Dynapac 700 Roller with Topcon C-53 IC Intelligent Compaction
- Four Topcon FC-5000 data collectors
“This was an outstanding opportunity for QAP – and Colaska – to truly see what a full range of GNSS solutions could do for them – and they were not disappointed,” said Williams.
The machine control solution is working really well for us,” he said. “With everyone working off the same a model, things are roughed in quickly – it’s all very efficient. We were out here for seven weeks and had the bulk of the earthwork knocked out. It turned into a paving show much sooner than we ever anticipated. Granted, there are always weather days that we always have to anticipate up here, but it’s nice to get a bit of breathing room so early on.”
Having that level of efficiency in all phases of the project was not just a luxury. While there is no incentive built into QAP’s contract for finishing the TSAIA project early, there is certainly a penalty – $18,000 per day between two phases – for delays beyond the contracted end date.
“For us, the incentive to finish early is this: we’re done, we’re under budget, we did a good job and the customer is satisfied,” said Meenaghan.
“From my perspective, the biggest benefit the Millimeter GPS provided was an amazingly accurate way to deal with the grade breaks,” he said. “Out here, the grade off centerline was consistent: for 25 feet on either side it was 1.5 percent. But in the areas where the runway crossed the taxiways, not only did it vary, it was also vague in the plans and needed to be calculated. But when we built the model, all that data was in there. That was huge – without it, we would have been chasing cross slopes throughout each taxiway.”
He added that, despite the time it took to ready the system each day (calibrations, setting up transmitters, etc.), they were still far ahead of the game in milling.
“Once we were off and running it was great to see the GPS take over,” he said. “In a sense, it took my job from me. However, it did free me up to do other things and to follow behind with a data collector for periodic grade checks. I think it was a great setup for what needed to be accomplished out here and the results speak for themselves.”
“Mike Williams and his team have been great – they’re our go-to guys out here for sure,” he said. “They are very knowledgeable of the solutions they provide and always make themselves available – a company like ours can’t ask for better than that. There’s a lot out here that simply couldn’t have happened without them.”
“I think this is a really good system,” he said. “It shows me on-screen how many passes I’ve made as well as my densities – it even has a sensor that tells me what the temperature of the asphalt is. Without IC, none of that is available and operators have to count the number of passes made. Here, I can program each pass to be a different color and quickly identify an area that is at risk of over or under-compaction.”
QAP’s completion date for work at TSAIA, while technically September 30th, includes two weeks during which the FAA has scheduled flight testing to begin mid-month.
“So, we are looking at substantial completion mid-September, final completion at the end of the month,” said Meenaghan. “But thus far, this has been a great job and we are very satisfied with the way things have gone. All the GPS equipment we had on site saved us either time or manpower. And milling with the Topcon Millimeter GPS system proved to be a good move; production exceeded what we had built in for the job. We’re definitely pleased with where we’re at.”