Fixing up a grass strip

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Daven, Jul 18, 2021.

  1. Daven

    Daven Pre-Flight

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    I have a 3k ft grass runway I'd like to be able to land and takeoff from but the issue is it hasn't been maintained in years and about half of it is now too bumpy to land or take off on. The other half is fine, but at gross weight and high density altitude in the summer (8k+ feet) I need at least a few hundred more feet to safely take off without going on to the super bumpy part.

    The runway is otherwise in great shape other than the bumps on half of it. Tried driving a car over it at landing speeds and practically shook the car apart on the bumpy half. ;-)

    So, what would be the best way to smooth out the bumpy parts?

    Of note here is the ground is pretty rock hard. Like, even a 600 pound, four ft wide tractor pulled spoil aerator with giant sharp scoops almost doesn't penetrate at all. Just scratches the surface. Also of note, I have a 42HP tractor at my disposal.

    So what's best here?
     
  2. kmacht

    kmacht Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If your willing to start over with growing the grass then a large disc harrow to break up the soil and then a bobcat with a Harley rake to smooth it all out. If not then wait until next spring when the soil is wet and get the heaviest roller you can find to pull behind the tractor. The roller won’t make it perfectly smooth but should help.
     
  3. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    Depending on your level of patience and the effort you're interested in investing, you can roll, aerate, roll, aerate, etc. until the runway is as smooth as a billiard table.
     
  4. Steven Untet

    Steven Untet Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Get bush wheels???


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  5. a572mike

    a572mike Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What's the nature of the roughness? Is it actual surface deviations or is it clumps of bunchgrass?
     
  6. Daven

    Daven Pre-Flight

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    Both clumps of sod next to dry bare hard as a rock dirt and little ground deviations that have developed over the years since last maintained. The strip used to be very smooth as a guy with a Cessna 150 used to maintain it and fly in and out all the time (turns out running weed back when it was illegal here ;-)) His plane got grounded after getting caught, but he hadn't had an annual done in many years so the police couldn't find anyone willing to ferry it to come take it. :) It's still sitting there. The strip hasn't been used in years. :)

    No bush wheels on mine. It's a '77 Piper Arrow III Turbo. :) Takes its sweet time getting off the ground at high density altitudes in the summer even with the turbo. :) Winter the usable part of the strip right now would be totally fine. Right on the line for summer. But I'd really like the whole 3k ft to work with anyway. :) It's a one way only take off and landing strip regardless of winds owing to trees and a mountain right off the south side of the strip. So sometimes might have to land/takeoff with a little tail wind too. :)

    Also, just saying but the Piper wing spars aren't exactly known to be rock solid, so I'd rather not shake the airframe too much for that reason too. ;-)
     
  7. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    How's the drainage and crowning on the existing strip? Is it worth re-grading do you just want to try to smooth what you've got? Plenty of heavy equipment and $$ will work wonders.
     
  8. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    How much money ya got to throw at it?
     
  9. 5QK

    5QK Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Dynapac vibrating asphalt roller when damp is AMAZING.
     
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  10. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

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    I tried various things on my 1800ft strip. The roller on wet ground sounds good. My result was poor. Water pools in the low spots, and those are soft compared to high spots. I suppose you could figure out how to roll just the high spots, but just going down the strip with a roller made mine worse! Luck and a referral from a friend, got me a visit from a BIG tractor pulling a pan controlled by a laser. The tractor was steered by GPS. Results were incredible; took one day, total charge was less than $4K. (seeding was not included.) If you live in a big farming area, the solution may be in use by farmers working large tracts to reduce soil moisture variation.
     
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  11. Captain Sweet T

    Captain Sweet T Pre-Flight

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    The only results that you will be happy with with will be laser leveling. Otherwise drainage will be a problem
     
  12. ksandrew

    ksandrew Pre-Flight

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    Daven,
    Where are you located? I have a grass strip 4650 long and a crosswind runway 2000' long. There is a lot to take into consideration, I have spent 9 years learning and building mine. There is just not the space here for me to start telling you what to do. On facebook look up Grand Oaks Plantation, Sasser Georgia. or give me a call at 229 407-0200
     
  13. MBDiagMan

    MBDiagMan En-Route

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    If you don’t grade it for proper drainage, I don’t think it will ever serve you well except in periods when there has been no rain for a period of time. Without proper drainage it won’t be useful when you need it.
     
  14. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    I use a box blade behind my similar sized tractor to smooth out ground (and my driveway). I drop the skegs on very hard stuff, and it can take many passes to get it loose enough that the box blade will do its magic.
     
  15. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Might make it a little tough to raise the gear....


    [​IMG]
     

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  16. WDD

    WDD Pattern Altitude

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    Vintage Snazzy (so my adult children say)
    This - I think I know enough to know there is a LOT of things I'm not even aware of. Talk to Andrew, ebetancourt, and/or other private grass strip owners in your area. Might even call the grounds keeper at a few golf courses, etc. You've got to think of drainage, sub surface prep/base, soil, what kind of grass, how to grow it/treat it/mow it, etc. It doesn't have to be a putting green, but you don't want to spend tons of money only to have it turn into a marsh.
     
  17. Robert Gee

    Robert Gee Filing Flight Plan

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    Grass matters. Legal or invasive pest. Some grasses can heave and subside the soil along with the rain and dry cycles.
    Tractor, bush hog, box scraper...repeat. g a multi-tired roller and compaction to help drainage Pick a good grass for your climate and seed it maybe.
     
  18. WDD

    WDD Pattern Altitude

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    Or - if you live in CO or Oregon, pick the right grass species and you can not only use it for an airstrip but sell the grass clippings.
     
  19. Snowmass

    Snowmass Line Up and Wait

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    Hire a road grader. That is what they are for. Crown it so it will drain. Then re-seed.
     
  20. UngaWunga

    UngaWunga Pattern Altitude

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    The estimate was around $4k for a tractor to level it? That's about one plane load of "grass clippings" in a Arrow. He'll be fine.
     
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  21. WDD

    WDD Pattern Altitude

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    And it’s all legal!
     
  22. Snowmass

    Snowmass Line Up and Wait

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    I have a dirt strip and the last time (15 years ago) the grader charged $120/hour if he is in the neighborhood. A grader will do a better job and it should only take couple of hours.
     
  23. ksandrew

    ksandrew Pre-Flight

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    first of all you need to remove the top soil, then you level it and return the top soil. No grasses that can be seeded are any good, The best grasses are sterile hybrids that have to be sprigged. there is so much to learn that I cant even start here.
     
  24. Matthew Rogers

    Matthew Rogers Cleared for Takeoff

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    I will ask the older guys that built our strip from scratch, but I don't think they "sprigged" the grass and it is wonderful at 2NK9. In fact, the club buys some grass seed each year for a re-seed after aerating. We do have a large tow-behind vibrating roller compactor that takes care of the lumps and the runway is able to be used in nearly the worst of the wet weather with just a few soft spots here and there.
     
  25. WDD

    WDD Pattern Altitude

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    Sounds like you need all the engineering of building a road with a road bed, drainage, slope, etc except instead of asphalt for the top layer you use top soil and grass
     
  26. FancyG

    FancyG Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Subsoiler/ripper to start. Breaks up hardpan, restores drainage.

    Turnover plow to set crown.

    Disc harrow and drag weight follower to break up chunks.

    Rock rake with alternating teeth removed for final grading.

    Broadcast seed to finish.
     
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  27. Daven

    Daven Pre-Flight

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    The area is in eastern Washington up near the Canadian border (near Hunters, Wa, if you look up near Clark Lake on Bissell Rd there on Google maps you'll spot it :)). Doesn't get much rain at all and usually very hot. Water pooling on the runway has never been an issue I've seen. The guy who used to maintain it as noted hasn't flown on it in many years and unfortunately for him and for questioning him about his maintanence of it before, he died relatively recently.
     
  28. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    Sounds about right.

    I built my own grass strip from a hay meadow. You can do wonders with a farm tractor and some implements.
     
  29. Hiflyr1

    Hiflyr1 Pre-Flight

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    We put cheap red sand on ours and dragged it smooth with a box blade and a x tie dragged behind a tractor. Works great just dumped the sand in the appropriate areas and went to work.