Geotextile Runway Proposal

Last update: 09-18-2021 09:30PM

Link to the latest update

What’s Up?

You may have noticed a set of cones in the field the last week or so.  The cones are an initial attempt at defining a site for a geotextile runway using the rightmost flight station as a midpoint.

Say what?

The idea of installing a geotextile runway has been discussed on and off over the last few years.  It again came up at the May meeting as I had gotten some quotes based on a discussion at the field a month or two prior.  While there was some interest and an attempt to motion for a vote on installing one, there was not enough information known at the time to seriously consider it at the time, in my opinion.  It was also getting late in the meeting and I was looking to wrap things up. (Sorry I shut you down so abruptly on that, Ed.)  However, after that meeting Bob Rowe talked with me and volunteered to pay for the fabric and associated materials for a geotextile runway.

This is a very generous offer and prompted me to start collecting information so it could be presented to the membership and voted on as soon as possible.  The cones are an attempt to figure out just how large a runway would be and where it is best placed, if the club okays the project.

The Proposal

Install a geotextile runway, similar in nature to this one:

Bob is offering to pay for 3 rolls of fabric, freight for delivery, and staples.  Based on a current quote from the material supplier this totals out to around $3400.  With 6-8” of overlap on the long seams, edge folding/tucking, and saving some scrap for patching, that would come out to about a 285’x43’ runway area.  If we want to have any taxiways, that will come off the length of the runway.

(3) US 230 - US Fabrics - 15’x300’ - 320 lbs/roll $950 / roll $2850
Freight   $376
Elastomeric/Rubberized Roof Coating   $100
2000 6” landscape staples $50 / 1000 $100
Dirt/Sand Fill $30/yd $3000
Multi-ton Roller (60+” wide)   ~$800 one day
1 Ton Roller (26” wide)   ~$190 one day
Multi-ton Roller (60+” wide) (Bob Rowe contact)   ~$600 one day

The AMA recommendation for geotextile material is “US 230” from a company called US Fabrics, in Ohio. More information can be found at:

The price for the multi-ton and 1 ton rollers are quotes I received, calling to three area vendors.  Some members have contacts that may be able to get use of one for less.  I included these as reasonable estimates in the event those don’t pan out.  We would not need to rent both a multi-ton and 1 ton roller.  It is either or. Both are vibratory rollers.  Both have two drums and are either driven/ridden or self-propelled.  The multi-ton price includes transport to/from the site (they are around 15,000 lbs).  The 1 ton can be transported by trailers that club members have, one of whom will hopefully be kind enough to volunteer to the transport effort.  Heavier and wider the better, but I believe good results can be achieved with either.  The lighter one will take significantly more effort and time, of course, to compact the same area.

The dirt fill line item is a rough estimate.  It may be an underestimate.  I have purchased, on my own (not the club), a grading laser that I will use to shoot levels and build an elevation map, to determine actual material needed. The rough estimate is for 100 cu yds based on last year’s dirt delivery cost.  I will get an up to date quote, including discount for the bulk of the order involved.  Bill Whittaker is also talking to a contact who may be able to get us a much better deal, however it might be a cash deal which can be a problem if we want to apply for a field improvement grant from the AMA.

Amount covered by Bob Rowe: $3300-3400

Amount covered by STARS: $3300-4000 (dirt fill estimate needs more work, this will change before the meeting)

We will have to work out how this is all accounted for with Bob. Coupled with the fence line electrical project, we could potentially apply for $1500-2250 worth of reimbursement from an AMA Field Improvement Grant.  We may not be approved for any of it, or we may get some smaller amount of what we apply for.

The club’s general fund has $12925 in it as of this writing.  The fence electrical project has not been reimbursed to Greg Moore yet.  Add in other monthly expenses.  We can expect the account will be down to around $12000 soon.

Other major potential expenses this year may include reshingling the roof of the pavilion.  This would cost around $700 in materials and disposal. (Estimate of 600 sqft of roof surface, $30 per 33sqft if shingles, nails and roofing paper and sealant, club member labor, and cost for refuse disposal.)   And, as always, field maintenance equipment may throw us a curveball and require a badly timed replacement or expensive repair.

I believe the club general fund can support the project, support ongoing operational costs, and leave a good emergency reserve. If and when we receive a reimbursement grant from the AMA that will further help replenish reserves.

Site Layout and Smoothing Plan

The first layout experiment had the runway centered at the third pilot station, so shifted right about 30 ft from the image below. And the whole thing was shifted about 15 ft to the north compared to this image.  This image is of the current, second layout experiment, centering on the 2nd flight station and puts the closest edge 30ft from the normal pilot station pads (15 from the second pads).

The yellow line in the image is the existing “center line” established by the cones on either end of the field. As you can see it isn’t parallel to the flight stations as the runway layout currently is.  It’s an open question if people would prefer the current layout plan or adjusting it to be parallel with the yellow line.  Distance from flight stations is another consideration.  This second layout moves the runways in toward the flight stations compared to the first layout.  Hopefully this layout is a more natural landing standoff distance for pilots using it and allows people landing on grass to do so more naturally at 80-90 ft out instead of 95-110 ft like it was with the prior layout test.

I have conducted the start of a survey of the current layout, including the area from the flight stations to the runway, to get an idea of the existing grade directions and figure out how much fill might be needed.  Below are a series of graphs of the runway elevation measurements, an ideal smooth grade over that area, and a map of where we’d need to dig from and add fill to in order to achieve the smooth graph target.

Higher quality images, as well as raw data, and graphs including the flight station to runway region are available here:

The runway area has a natural overall grade running east to west, dropping about 12 inches over the length of the runway (nominally 300ft).  There is also north to south drop of almost 5 inches over the width (nominally 45ft) at the east end and almost no north-south drop on the west end.

While there is a need for more granularity in the map data (more points, bumping up from 27 on the runway area in these reports up to 55 or more), this coarse set of data does appear to indicate that we actually do not need additional fill to smooth this region out.  By digging from the high spots and redistributing to the lows, we should be able to do it, perhaps with dirt left over to smooth out surrounding areas.

I’m going to collect more data on the runway and in the area leading to the runway, as well as data for points surrounding the runway area.  However, this is a time consuming task and I’d like to lock down an intended runway placement/layout prior to investing that time.

AMA Flying Site Improvement Grant

Every few years clubs can apply for and receive up to 25% of the cost (max $3000 in grant award) for club site field improvements. Applications become available in August, clubs submit them by February, and they are awarded in April.  They can cover up to 1 year prior to and following the application period.  Both this and our fence line electrical project can be included in an application to be submitted by Feb 2022.  We’d have to have documentation of the project(s), receipts for any claimed costs, etc.

Pros and Cons

This is a list of pros and cons that I’ve compiled so far with some input from members.  Please pass along your concerns or other items you think should be listed here that aren’t adequately covered, so I may add them.



Other Comments and Frequent Q&A

Additional/Alternative Ideas

These are ideas from discussions I’ve had with members.  They are presented without value judgement and are meant as fodder for further discussion and consideration at our June meeting.

What’s Next?

Between now and the June meeting (June 9, 2021 at 7PM at the club) discuss this with other members, officers, etc.  Try flying using the coned area as a virtual runway.  If you don’t think you will like the geotex runway, try landing and taking off on areas off the coned region to see if that is a problem.  If you have questions feel free to ask me or seek answers from others.  As I receive questions or comments I’ll update the FAQ and information on this page, and we will have our normal project discussion at that meeting.

A word on procedure.  Before there can be a vote on this project, there must be a motion made to accept the proposal and vote on the project.  Normally this project proposal would be made at the June meeting, a motion would be made at the June meeting to hold the vote on the project at the July meeting.  I am hoping that by collecting information ahead of time, publishing it to the membership, and because this is a topic that has been batted around at prior meetings, that those in attendance will feel there is enough information known at the June meeting to make a motion to conduct the project vote at that same June meeting.  This is unusual, but it is not against the rules of the club so far as I can tell.

It is up to those in attendance at the June meeting what motions are made and which will be voted into effect.  The members may choose to make a motion to hold the vote at the July meeting, instead of the June meeting.  There may be no motion made for any vote, or they may vote against all motions to conduct a project vote, indicating more information is needed before it can be considered. If you have a preference on when the vote on this project happens and cannot attend the June meeting, please let your proxy know your wishes on the matter so your proxy can vote your intent on the motion(s).

Due to the degree of general fund use involved and degree of alteration to the club facilities, the vote on this proposal will be limited to open members only.  All members -- associate, open, or otherwise -- are encouraged to voice their opinions, participate in the discussion and debate, make suggestions, etc. but voting on this matter will be limited to the open members. If you cannot attend the meeting please make your concerns or thoughts known and get your questions answered in advance of the meeting. And if you are an open member who cannot attend, please arrange to have another open member vote as your proxy.


06-10-2021 10PM -- From email to the club membership:

... after an extensive discussion during the meeting, minutes of which Jeff will be providing in the upcoming issue of Propwash, a motion was made and a vote was held to decide if the club's open membership wanted to pursue having a geotextile runway. This was not to authorize the project specifics, only to express if members thought this was something the club should pursue. That vote passed. Secondly, a vote was held to authorize the project as proposed in the website document and as discussed at the meeting, essentially accepting Bob's offer and authorizing up to $4000 in club treasury expenditure for site preparation and ancillary installation costs. Again, no dues increase is attached to this project, as it is being funded out of the club treasury (effectively using the remainder of the Peter Seiffert family and friends donation from last year) and Bob's donation. That vote also passed.

While the project has been approved, there is still some data gathering needed to put a finer point on the treasury expenditure that will be needed for this project. If it is determined that the authorized amount is likely to be insufficient, including allowance for overage, we will conduct another vote at the July meeting before any work beyond basic smoothing (already approved at prior meetings) is started. However, if after additional data is gathered and the expected cost is less than the approved $4000, the project will proceed. What does "project will proceed" mean? A schedule will be made, work days planned, work on the field for site preparation will commence, and the geotextile purchase order will be arranged.

We also voted on the placement of the runway and the vote was in favor of using the currently marked location (green cones on the field and as depicted in the proposal document). Despite the vote, this is not yet set in stone. If you think it should be placed differently please speak up. One alternative brought up at the meeting was to place it at a farther distance from the flight stations, effectively making it the secondary runway instead of the primary. I'll talk with the member that proposed this to nail down the details of the idea more concretely so it can be presented in either a vote at the July meeting or on an online survey of the membership later this month. The vote on placement tonight was a strong result in favor of the currently proposed placement, so we have that as the default option if the second vote/survey does not yield significant participation or a strong majority in favor of an alternate placement.

I want to thank everyone that came to the meeting tonight. It was a larger than normal turnout and there was a good exchange of opinions. I hope that everyone felt they had the chance to express their opinions, be heard, and potentially sway their fellow members. I know that not everyone agrees, but I think this runway will be a benefit that the vast majority of our members will come to enjoy and will enhance our ability to recruit members. And though an unexpected development, I think the club getting its own internet connection will enhance the reliability and allow for expanded functionality of the camera page of the website and similarly help in recruitment, as well as help in getting more family involvement at the club. All of this should help secure a longer future for what has been built over the past several decades at the club.

06-10-2021 10PM -- Additional:

I requested a quote from our usual fill/dirt supplier for 100yds. We may not need this, but I wanted to get a quote for a bulk amount from current pricing to have on record in case that amount of fill (or more) is needed. The quote was for $27/yd, or $2700 cash. This was unspecified dirt composition beyond "top soil". I will be making other inquiries for 60/40 mix of top soil to sand and other top dressing mixes.

I've left the $3000 estimate in the budget chart above, until this is narrowed down through seeking additional quotes and getting more elevation data for the smoothing area.

07-21-2021 6PM

An updated grade plan was presented at the July meeting. Here are the details:

During the June meeting and after some discussion and an informal survey following that meeting, there was a clear desire to move the runway placement away from the original "blue" box on the image above (30ft from the flight stations) to the "green" box which was on the field for some time leading up to the meeting and has since been put back on the field. The idea being to have takeoffs to the west and landings from the west better capture the gap in the trees on the west side of the field, and to be better lined up with the long time approach cone on the east side of the field.

During the July meeting it was further discussed to shift the green box 30 ft to the east. Keeping the angle of the green box, but putting its SE corner at the same spot as the pink box. The idea being to give more room on the west side and manage the tree gap, and putting the runway closer to where people tend to naturally touchdown on short approaches from the east. This passed unanimously.

Several areas will be "shaved" down to remove highs. Unfortunately that scraping will be mostly turf and poorly suited to use in fine grading (though it may be of use in the deeper depressions on the far east and west sides of the field). So, an estimated 72 cubic yards of fill will be needed to be brought in, spread, and compacted. This is a significant increase compared to the prior estimate based on the initial survey, however it is less than the original budget estimate of 100cuyd so should keep us well within budget.

Adjustments to this plan to shift the runway to the east by 30 ft will be done and posted as a final plan.

08-10-2021 10AM

A survey has been posted to find out what block of 3 days will be best to schedule the all-hands runway work. Please respond quickly:

09-01-2021 12:51AM

The final target layout for the runway has been set. This change is in accordance with the vote at the August meeting, after some discussion, to shift the runway layout 30ft to the east. This change is intended to give more room on the west side between the trees and the runway and also to allow the runway to catch more of the western gap in the tree canopy without dramatically altering the angle of the runway vs the flight line. This change was marked out and flown by several members and flight school students with success.

As presented previously here is the layout data and graphs. This will be our smoothing target in the smoothing/dirt work weekend coming up after labor day.

The runway layouts image at the top has the previous layout rectangles subdued, with the current (and final) layout in yellow. This plan does not include as much extraneous filling and smoothing on the non-runway areas. There is some to help bridge some gaps and get drainage moving the right way. But work in and around the pit area and the section to the west of the runway are not indicated. We will have enough work on our hands to get the runway completed. We will work on other areas as time allows. This does have the benefit of keeping our expected expense under budget by a wide margin.

As mentioned in email on 8/30/2021, we have work days scheduled for Sept 11-12 and Sept 18-19. We will be doing most of the work on the 11th and 18th, but will hold the Sundays in reserve in case we need additional time at each phase or if Saturday gets canceled on account of weather.

The first weekend will be for dirt work and smoothing the runway area and the apron around it. The second weekend will be for laying down the geotextile fabric.

All able members are expected to participate in this effort. The more people on hand the more quickly we will be able to do each phase and the less worn out people are likely to get.

Weather is, as always, the unknown variable. We'll modify plans if necessary, likely by delaying from Saturday to Sunday, or having to schedule an extra weekend to complete delayed work, but all efforts will be made to maintain this schedule.

Unfortunately, the FPV Race event scheduled for Sept 11 is canceled. Our partners at FLX FPV have been informed and they are letting people know. Thank you everyone who was planning to attend for your understanding.

09-09-2021 11:00AM

Here's the plan and timeline

Thursday, Sept 9

Field will be usable during the last evening of flight school. During the day there may be times it's available for flying. Afternoon through to flight school it will be closed to flying.

Friday, Sept 10

Again, a person or two to help during shaving would be good. And I can use some help (one or two people) with setting grade stakes, but there is no need for a large group of helpers.

Saturday, Sept 11

Sunday, Sept 12

Sept 13-17

Flying is open. If large roller rental is deemed needed it will happen during this week. If it is rented that machine is going to be running as long as possible to get our money's worth. It will start on the main field, during which the field will be closed to flying. If any “damage” to the runway smoothing happens during the week final fixups will happen on Friday Sept 17.

Saturday, Sept 18

Sunday, Sept 19

Complete geotextile installation not completed on Saturday

09-12-2021 5:00PM

You guys did awesome work this weekend! Here's a series of pictures covering some of the work on this project to date.

And here's some of how it looked when I left this afternoon.

The moguls are gone!

This area is a bit over 15,000 square feet. We added about 26 cubic yards of soil. This was all hit with the power rake several times. Rolled. Raked again. Screeded by hand. Rolled. Then the perimeter was york raked, hand raked, power raked, and hand raked again. Finally it was all rolled to the current state. And a back and forth pass by the team on Sunday to pick up as much loose debris as we could pick up.

This was a very big undertaking. About 28 people participated over the course of the weekend. It couldn't have happened without people showing up, doing the work, and making it happen. Thank you.

Sept 18 & 19 are the days to install the geotextile material. We'll need another large group of people on hand to make it happen. This should be less physically demanding than the screeding and raking this past weekend, but to maneuver the rolls and tension things as we're laying material down will take many hands. The less people to help, the more strenuous it will become.

Be looking for email for some item requests and further details, as the weekend approaches.

Latest Update

09-18-2021 9:30PM

The runway is pretty much complete! We're waiting for things to dry a bit more before we attempt rolling it and finish putting sealant on the northern middle seam. We also need to seed around the runway, once we find the right seed blend to match up well with our existing grass and smooth out some of the fill spots off-runway. The stuff we've been using has a very different grass blade and is difficult for the reel mowers to deal with.

Here are some pictures of the work and end of day results. The wrinkles in the geotextile will go away, as the material shrinks, after several days of sunlight hitting it.

Very cool. This is a great improvement to the facilities of the club and we should get many years of service from it.

Thank you everyone who volunteered to help with the smoothing and installation work over the past two weekends. It was a lot of difficult work, but I (and many others) think is has been well worth it given the fantastic results.