Geotex (Fabric) Runway
Many radio controlled aircraft clubs throughout the United States are using a Geotextile runway as an alternative to asphalt. The Geotex runway offers many advantages as it is affordable, and it provides a smooth surface so all sizes and types of aircraft can use it. This page will explain all the details of the Geotex runway. At the bottom of the page, you can place a vote. If our club expresses enough interest, we too could have a Geotex runway.
What Is Geotextile?
The fabric is used as an underlayment in road construction as a porous barrier between gravel and earth. Water filters right through it, but (as long as it is in contact with the ground below) it tends to keep the underlying earth below it from eroding. There are many different varieties, all designed to meet government specifications for either puncture strength, tear strength or porosity. Its main weakness is that it will degrade over time due to UV exposure. The time span is 5-7 years of use before needing to consider replacement. It is a petroleum-based material, so pricing varies widely and changes day-to-day.
Advantages of a Geotextile Runway.
– User friendly to all aircraft – Micro to 100cc – Electric, Nitro, Gas.
– User friendly to aircraft with retractable gear.
– Warbirds and EDF’s can operate off of it.
– No longer have to put larger wheels on smaller aircraft.
– Less chance of nosing over and breaking propellers.
– Friendly to monokote covered aircraft – it does not scratch the covering off the plane.
– Friendly to fiberglass aircraft – cowlings don’t scratch if nosed-over.
– Less field maintenance – no replacing sprinklers.
– It doesn’t require mowing, reseeding, fertilizing or watering.
– It is “instant”. You can fly off of it as soon as it is staked down.
– It is long lasting, resilient, and easily repaired.
– Cost effective – a Geotextile runway is inexpensive.
– Adaptable – can be moved to another location.
– Tough surface
– Easy to repair
– Simple to install
– Reduces damage to landing gear & cost of repairs to modelers
– Highly visible & does not disappear into the grass like paint or chalk would
– Provides target for pilots & students to aim for on landing approach
– Encourages proper takeoff & landing technique
– Increased membership with smaller electric model owners able to use the field.
– Increased variation in models which need smooth surface for takeoff & landings
– Very strong, material not affected by foot traffic in any season.
– All weather resistant, animal & critter resistant
In addition to being cost-effective and adaptable, the Geotextile is tough enough to withstand prop damage from a plane over-rotating or tipping over. In rare cases where damage does occur, the Geotextile can be easily repaired.
Featured in “Model Aviation”
US Fabrics, one of many companies that offer Geotextile, sells a product called US 230 Aeromodeling Geotextile. This product was featured in the March 2013 edition of “Model Aviation.” Watch the video below the Related Information link at the bottom of this page to read the article by Tony Stillman, Flying Site Coordinator, entitled “Affordable Runways and a New Club.”
Easy to Install
A Geotextile runway is also fairly simple to install. Blade the runway area, or remove all weeds with a post-emergent weed killer such as Roundup®, and fill in low points. Compact the area, making sure to establish a crown and allow for drainage on the sides. Rake out bumps and rocks. Apply a pre-emergent weed killer such as Preen. Unroll the Geotextile onto the prepared runway area. Secure the Geotextile by driving in 8″ sod staples to just slightly below grade level. Use staples every 18 inches. Overlap Geotextile edges 6″ or so and glue it with something like Black Jack® brand Emulsion Roof Coating. Another option is 3M™ #78 Spray Geotextile Adhesive.
Southern Eagle Squadron in Leesburg, FL have discovered another way to seam two sections of Geotextile together. They utilized a product available at Home Depot called Tite Seal “Roof Deck Seam Tape.” They are very pleased with the results. As an added bonus, the tape is white, creating a white strip down the middle that many clubs prefer!
Seminole Valley RC Field completed the installation with Willahoochee 315W Geotextile material. This runway replaces the old existing grass runway which was rough and made takeoffs and landings very challenging. The club installed 3 rolls of Willahoochee 315W geotextile fabric and secured it with sod staples to complete a runway that is 30′ wide by 300′ feet long. The installation was completed in just a few hours.
Below is a video of the Central Savannah River Area Flyers installing their runway on grass.
CSRA Flyers completed the installation of our brand new runway made from 315W geotextile material. This runway replaces the old existing grass runway which was rough and made takeoffs and landings very challenging.
A crew of 15 club members installed 3 rolls of Willahoochee 315W geotextile fabric and secured it with ~2,800 8″ sod staples to complete a runway that is 45′ wide by 300′ feet long. The installation was completed in just 2 hours and 45 minutes!
There are several methods the Geotextile runway can be repaired.
There are many ways to repair a Geotex runway. An adhesive used to apply patches is called GOOP found at Home Depot, as well as other retailers. The GOOP patches take about 20 minutes to dry enough to use the runway and they seem to hold up really well. We repair holes using small pieces of the fabric and asphalt roof patching compound. Some of the smaller holes can be repaired using just the asphalt roof patching. A good idea is to use round corners on the patch material to lessen the chance of them pulling up.
Questions and answers
How do I seam Geotext?
Since sewing will produce humps that are not acceptable, the product will need to be glued or bonded. Gluing polypropylene can be problematic. Our clubs have told us of several options that work. These are Black Jack® Emulsion Roof Coating, 3M™ #78 Spray Geotextile Adhesive, Goop® glue and Tite Seal Roof Deck Seam Tape.
Where can I purchase sod staples?
They are usually available at Home Depot, Lowes or your local sod supplier. Make sure to get staples with a flat top. Some have a rounded top that can protrude up after installation.
How long will my Geotextile runway last?
Each installation is unique. However, clubs are typically reporting 5-7 years of use.
Does a Geotextile runway need to be pulled up every year?
No. You do not want to pull the runway up. This can result in damage to the geotextile. It will also be difficult to re-roll it into a manageable size without a mechanical apparatus to tension it while it is rolled.
How do I remove snow and other debris from geotextile runway fabric?
A blower or broom is the best option to ensure you do not damage the fabric.
The roll has numerous fibers sticking out on the ends. Is it unraveling?
No. This is how the finished rolls appear. This is not a defect. You will notice that the rolls have a thick selvedge about an inch or so in that prevents unraveling.
What preparation is needed before laying the fabric?
The ground is rolled and the grass is mowed as short as possible. You can kill the grass off with spray to help the fabric lay down faster.
How is it installed?
It is held down by 8” staples approx. 6” apart at all edges and seams.
What maintenance is required during the season?
The only maintenance required has been to kill a few weeds working up through the seams and to patch a few bad prop strikes.
What needs to be done each spring?
Roll the field and push the staples down. They work up a little due to the frost in the ground.
Any winter preparation needed?
No winter prep has been needed.
What are the top three problems with the fabric runway?
(A) Short coupled planes or planes with poor landing gear tend to be real squirrelly
at taxiing and take off.
(B) You must have a very slow idle.
(C) If a plane noses in or crashes on the runway really hard, it can put the prop nut through the runway or the prop may slice through. However, most of the time it does no harm.
Why do other clubs go to a fabric runway?
Because a lot of the guys did not like having to put larger wheels on their airplanes in order to take off from the tall grass, especially in the spring when the grass grows so fast.
How do other club’s members like the fabric runway?
Most of them like it, even those who originally opposed it. One particular club maintains approx two (2) acres of mowed field for anyone who still prefers to fly off grass.
What care must be taken while mowing? How close do you get to the fabric?
Our mower just overlaps the edges of the runway and has had no problems.
Does it stay tight?
The runway material stretches tight in the sunshine and stays tight all year round.
Does the wind damage the runway?
There have been no problems with the winds damaging the runway, but the runway must be securely installed with sod staples.
What is the cost estimate?
For one roll of Geotex – Mirafi® FW404 compairable to US230, 15ft. wide X 300 ft. Long – price is $1,940 + $60 to truck it from Salt Lake to WAM.
What is the average size of runway other clubs are using?
The average runway width and length are 30 feet X 300. For our club we would need a minumum of 2 rolls of Mirafi® FW404. This bid is through Nilex – Salt Lake City.
Other Clubs using Geotex Runways
Also, please visit the following RC Club websites to see photos of runways constructed with geotextile: