Portable Runways Using Landing Mats
The Marston Mat as Portable Runways
The US Army Corp developed steel landing mats as an alternative surfacing for portable airfield runways just prior to World War II. Though rigid enough to bridge over small surface inequalities on the ground, the landing mats were best used on stabilized sub grade. These original landing mats were commonly known as, marsden matting, Marston mats, or PSP (Pierced Steel Plank).
The PSP or Marston mats are 16″ by 10′ and are approximately .140″ thick. This runway matting are made of hardened steel for strength and to resist corrosion. These portable runways mats have a punched hole pattern consisting of three rows of 29 holes, resulting in 87 holes per mat. They also have two corrugated U shaped channels formed between the rows of holes.
The Marston mat was utilized for military aircraft portable runways, beach landings, temporary roads, airfield taxing routes and storage pads for heavy equipment and supplies. The Marston mat was used extensively during World War II by front line construction personnel to build portable runways and other readily usable surfaces over all kinds of terrain in the Pacific Theater of Operations. In various countries in the Pacific Theater, particularly New Guinea, matting remains in use as fencing or road barriers, in some cases stretching for miles.
Even though the Marston mat or PSP became the runway matting deployed nearly universally, the Air Corps seriously considered using aluminum. This material offered the opportunity of reducing the mats weight so that smaller planes could carry it into areas inaccessible to heavier aircraft. The design of the lightweight aluminum alloy planks mirrored the standard PSP. Since its service life was only half as long, the aluminum landing mat never replaced the steel during the World War as portable runways.
The M8A1 as Portable Runways
A solid corrugated landing mat was developed and utilized as portable runways, and used extensively during the Vietnam War as portable runways for aircraft. With the use of jet powered aircraft replacing propeller driven aircraft, problems with foreign object debris (FOD) arose. Jet engines safety and performance was degraded. For this reason, the M8A1 mat was designed. The M8A1 mats were 12′ by 22″ and constructed from a solid sheet of steel, contained no holes. They were reinforced by 4 corrugated channels the length of the mat. These mats were eventually replaced with the AM-2 aluminum mat as portable runways. Because of the high resale value of the aluminum mats, many still use the steel mats for large projects, such as runway matting.
The JR Mat
The JR mat is the European equivalent of the M8A1. Measuring 10′ by 18″, it is slightly smaller, but still has the performance of the M8A1. The JR mat is a solid steel mat with 3 corrugations running the length of the mat. The JR mat is made of a hardened steel to give them strength and resist corrosion. To benefit traction, each mat is embossed. Because of their size, the JR mats make great portable runways.
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