Oct. 26, 2020

With winter looming and some parts of the country already grappling with snow and ice, the NBAA News Hour webinar – Runway Performance and Winter Operations – detailed how airports measure contaminated runway conditions and how business aviation pilots may use the Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) to determine their aircraft’s landing performance.

Implemented by the FAA in October 2016, TALPA incorporates a Runway Condition Matrix (RCAM) used by airport operators to assign runway condition codes between 0-6 for each third of the runway, with higher numbers representing more favorable conditions. This field condition (FICON) information is published via notices to airmen intended to provide crews with a quick and accurate summary of runway conditions.

“TALPA when it came out was a big pill to swallow for us because we’d been used to talking to pilots with as much detail as possible,” said Keith Leonhardt, operations and maintenance manager for the Massachusetts Port Authority at Bedford’s L.G. Hanscom Field (BED). “But we’ve come to realize that it’s a great standardization tool.”

RCAM values denoting precipitation type and depth are also intended to correspond to performance data provided by aircraft manufacturers for wet and contaminated runways, a process that is still ongoing.
“We’re trying to get away from the arbitrary nature of condition reporting and getting very specific to reporting the types and the depths that correspond to the performance data the pilots have,” noted Rich Boll, chair of the ATC, Airspace and Flight Technologies Working Group of the NBAA Access Committee.

However, “OEMs will not produce anything based on the runway condition codes,” said David Anvid, a retired senior principal engineer at Delta Air Lines and longtime member of the TALPA Aviation Rulemaking Committee. “Everything is based on [precipitation] type and depth. From there, using the RCAM, pilots may correlate that to the codes they may receive [while arriving] to an airport.”

“The timeliness of data is critical,” added Gordon Rother with FAA Flight Standards, Safety Standards, Air Carrier Operations. “It is important to check the time of the report versus current time and review the weather conditions since the report was taken.”

While the standardized nature of TALPA benefits flight crews seeking accurate runway condition information, it may not paint a complete picture. Leonhardt emphasized the importance of pilot reports to ATC of landing conditions and braking performance to help airports provide the most up-to-date data.

Pilots also should not hesitate to ask for updated information. “We want to make sure air crews know it’s still necessary for you to communicate with us,” he said. “Ask the questions that help fill the gaps that you may not be getting from the RCAM [or] FICON information.”