South Florida is legendary for its afternoon rainfalls. Wellington Aero Club, just west of West Palm Beach, gets 57″ of rain a year — almost 50% more than the national average.
Those warm afternoon rains became a problem for the people who live at the Wellington Aero Club, a 240-home residential airport community. Their grass taxiway leading from the homes to the runway remained saturated with water. It became unusable, sometimes for hours, after the rains.
The highest used areas, around the fuel stations, were receiving the brunt of abuse. Ruts, dead grass, and mud were building up and causing an overall blemish on this high-end community known for its manicured landscaping. Even the runway shoulders, with far less traffic, were showing signs of wear.
That led Wellington Aero Club’s leaders to do some research. Looking at options such as increasing the concrete areas, regulated and limited use of the fuel station and taxiways, and other options like pea gravel, they came across TRUEGRID PRO PLUS, a commercial-strength plastic permeable paver.
Permeable paving allows the water to percolate through the system instead of sheet flowing off the surface as is the case for concrete and asphalt, according to company officials.
Made of high-strength plastic, TRUEGRID PRO PLUS is a structure of 36 reinforced co-joined cylinders, grouped in four sections, connected with flexible S-joints. Each section of the paver is then connected to an adjacent piece with interlocking tabs and receivers forming one large grid system. The pieces are filled with soil and topped with grass or, in other cases, filled with gravel. According to company officials, the system is as strong as concrete in compressive strength and won’t crack or heave.
In 2014, Wellington Aero Club decided to install TRUEGRID PRO PLUS around the fueling stations. Apron areas around the stations was scraped and compacted, the pavers were placed, filled with soil, and topped with grass.
“The results were immediate,” said Barry Stiles, owner and inventor of TRUEGRID. “There was no rutting, the product protected the grass, and the owners were happy.”
The pavers easily support the weight of the airplanes and protect the grass root zone and the soil beneath.
The afternoon rains, even in the rainy season, are no match for the TRUEGRID reinforced area, he noted. The raindrops flow through the soil-filled system instead of gathering on top and flowing off. The plastic support system protects the soil from moving down or sideways effectively eliminating the problems with the airplane tires.
With the success of the fuel station apron area, Wellington Aero Park decided to address the problem of the grass taxi areas leading from the residents’ houses. Although the areas do not receive as much traffic, the airplane tires still do tremendous damage, especially when the grass taxiway is saturated from rain.
The entire grass taxiway and runway shoulder, about half a million square feet, was scraped, the soil compacted, TRUEGRID pavers were placed, filled with soil, and topped with turf grass.
The reinforced grass taxiways and runway shoulders were ready for immediate use without fear of damaging the pavers or having any movement or shifts occur, company officials reported.
Not only was the problem of rutting and usability solved, the airpark received additional environmental benefits. TRUEGRID PRO PLUS is made from 100% recycled plastic. This 500,000 square foot installation prevented 660,000 pounds of plastic from ending up in landfills or floating in the ocean, according to company officials.
Using recycled plastic also has an advantage over using concrete — less Carbon Dioxide emissions. More than 3 million tons of CO2 was saved by using TRUEGRID PRO PLUS versus using concrete.
And lastly, Florida is hot enough. By using a grass surface, the Aero Park was providing a natural air conditioning effect and reducing the ambient air temperature compared to hard surface paving.
But the product is not just for warm climates, company officials said. In cold climates, permeable pavers reduce the need for snow removal and reduce the occurrence of ice, they note, adding snow melts faster and ice does not form as quickly on permeable pavers.
There are applications all over an airport for TRUEGRID permeable pavers: Parking lots, fire lanes around buildings, access roads, chemical spill protection, and nearly any other area traditionally paved with asphalt, concrete, or unsupported gravel, officials said. TRUEGRID PRO PLUS has many applications where it is filled with gravel, instead of grass, when used in higher-frequency traffic applications.
Back at Wellington Aero Club, the community and its residents are enjoying the benefits of the TRUEGRID PRO PLUS project, which was completed in April 2018.
“Before TRUEGRID, members could not taxi their heavier aircraft on the grass taxiways,” said Julie Barnett, managing agent for the Wellington Aero Club. “Now that has all changed.”
“We knew it would work,” Stiles said. “We are just happy to know that Wellington Aero Club and the residents are thrilled with ease of the installation, the healthy grass aesthetic and how the grid performs.”