Welcome to Hector International Airport - Fargo, ND
Hector International takes pride in its winter operations. It has never had to close down the airport due to snow bogging down a runway. So, the opportunity to update an important piece of equipment, the Saab Friction Tester (SFT), which is part of its runway condition reporting during winter operations was welcomed.
The friction tester is used to determine the braking conditions aircraft should expect on a particular runway during winter snow and ice conditions. Arriving and departing aircraft use the numbers to determine the safety of the runway as well as the necessary braking distances required for their particular operation.
The Saab itself is very well maintained with very few miles and could serve the airport for a number of years. The 1983 vintage computer was outdated though, and options for an update needed to be considered.
The Saab originally cost the airport just over $106,000 in 1989, however, today only a handful of Saab SFTs are produced each year and a replacement would cost around $165,000. Instead of purchasing a completely new SFT, Hector elected to have the old computer stripped out and replaced with the latest model SARSYS SC2000 for a cost of $11,335.
The update allows the operator to quickly select the desired runway with its stored settings, line up with the desired test section, accelerate, and lower the testing tire. At the end of the run the computer reaches the stored test length, automatically releases the three hundred pounds of down force on the tire, and raises the tire from the surface. All the information gathered during a run is then saved on the computer and a hard copy of the data is printed.
A look at the new computer controls inside the Saab Friction Tester is pictured to the left. The dash mounted hand held controls replace the old controls, which were much larger and mounted in the dash.
The SFT is a specialized Saab 900 Turbo. The friction measurements come from a fifth wheel accessed through the hatchback and connected to the rear wheels. The fifth wheel is lowered down and forced onto the pavement with a down force of 300lbs. A built-in 10 to 15 percent slip helps continuously calculate the friction of the surface.
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