Contaminated Runway is used to say that the runway surface area (25%) is covered by 3.0 mm or more of: water, slush, snow and ice. But is it also possible to use this term to say about: heavy rubber, oil spill, debris or other substances are on the runway surface?


1 Answer 1


From the FAA Pilot/Controllers Glossary Book:

CONTAMINATED RUNWAY− A runway is considered contaminated whenever standing water, ice, snow, slush, frost in any form, heavy rubber, or other substances are present. A runway is contaminated with respect to rubber deposits or other friction-degrading substances when the average friction value for any 500-foot segment of the runway within the ALD fails below the recommended minimum friction level and the average friction value in the adjacent 500-foot segments falls below the maintenance planning friction level.

(See also ICAO Circular on Runway Surface Condition Assessment Measurement and Reporting) Thanks to mins.

So this covers rubber and oil, but not debris.

However, from searching the glossary there are no instances of the word "debris" in the document. Usually if debris or oil were noticed on a runway, ATC would close the runway (issue a NOTAM) and then use an alternate runway until the debris or oil were cleaned up.

From a pilots perspective, if you notice debris on the runway just tell ATC (provided you didn't hit it), and they will close the runway for a FOD (foreign object debris) check. My local airport does this usually twice a day or more, typically by running a car down the runway looking for debris.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your quote does say "or other substances are present." so could apply to the things that he asked about. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 1, 2016 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger Its possible, although a contaminated runway doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be closed, whereas something like debris would require it. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 1, 2016 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ @mins Thanks, the FAA Glossary usually points out differences with ICAO terms "Because of the international nature of flying, terms used in the Lexicon, published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), are included when they differ from FAA definitions. " I'll add your link to my answer for clarity. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 2, 2016 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ In the US, I was specifically taught that ATC does not have the authority to close (or especially open!) a runway—only the airport authority may do that. Though ATC can certainly withhold a landing or takeoff clearance if they feel the operation would not be safe. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Mar 10, 2021 at 1:27

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