Runway Surface Condition Reporting Systems
International harmonizing of runway surface conditions reporting has not resulted in better quality of the assessments, they are still based on qualitative observations and pilots’ subjective evaluations.
Based on work by Federal Aviation Administration’s (US) work through TALPA-ARC , a “Safety Alert for Operators” was issued by them in 2016 providing Runway Assessment and Coding Reporting. This is the foundation for International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) introduction of the new Global Reporting Format for runway surface conditions (GRF), these days being introduced to the rest of the aviation world. The reporting format takes out and prohibits traditional friction measurement equipment previously used by airport operators to relay operational information to pilots. This was because this type of equipment’s lack of correlation with how aircraft experience runway surface conditions.
Airports report runway conditions according to this matrix.
It requires a visual inspection and a qualitative assessment of the weather “contaminants”, which snow, rain etc., are called, and the extent of it.
Airports issue SNOWTAMs
SNOWTAM is a report issued by airports currently used to relay runway surface conditions according to above matrix. To perform such assessments, airports need to close the runway.
To do so, a significant change in weather would usually need to take place. Runway closures need to be reported all airport users by issuing a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) to affected parties such airlines and incoming flights. Federal Aviation Administration says it must be allowed 5 - 6 minutes before all parties concerned have received and understood the NOTAM information.
Airport personnel can then perform its visual inspection of runways for assessment. Although there are software programs to enter information data, the SNOWTAM must be prepared before issued. After completion of inspections airports can issue a new NOTAM informing about opening of runway.
Figure below illustrates some of the key events and activities assisiated with issuance and use of SNOWTAM
Kongsberg Aeronautical's AIREP
Kongsberg Aeronautical’s system also reports according to GRF in form of an AIREP (Aircraft Report). Since it is aircraft-based, each landing will provide an information input and relayed directly to the real users, airline flight operational personnel, through one of their flight operational application, for example a flight following program software.
The illustration below compares a situation where a landing occurs just after a “weather change.”