I landed on Catalina island runway 22 last Saturday after the installation of a new concrete runway.

To make it easier for heavyweight planes to land and after a short roll stop, they have made the runway curving up. It was very tricky to land. Because of optical illusion.

I realized at the numbers I was barely a few feet up and considering the fact that the runway starts at the edge of a deep cliff, it was potentially catastrophic.

I make sure I watch out for this and adjust my glide slope next time.

My question is shouldn't they provide some sign or on the ASOS add a heads up.

To clarify, the US Marines did the renovation of Catalina project recently which apparently has finished about a week ago. They have changed the topography of runway in a certain way, made it like bowl apparently, to make it easy for heavy airplanes to land in this short runway.

The changes have not been reflected in VFR charts or Supplement, or other aviation documents, at least to the best of my knowledge.


I just add my comment for pilots who plan to land at Catalina.

Because of the fact that the vanishing point (the point the sides of the runway merge in horizon in pilot's perspective) has changed, appearing higher than before, at the short final one perceives they are flying at a higher altitude, look out for this.

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    $\begingroup$ Re "I realized at the numbers I was barely a few feet up...", isn't that where you're supposed to be? Unless there's a chance of significant downdrafts at the runway end, in which case I would think there'd be a displaced threshold. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 6 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ If you familiar with the Catalina airport there is always current pulling you down. Because of the geometry of the island. You want to be 50 feet up minimum. $\endgroup$ – kamran May 6 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ It's your responsibility as PIC to be familiar with the airfields you visit, that means research. $\endgroup$ – GdD May 6 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ @John K, it used to have a hunch almost 2/3 down from 22 threshold. I am friends kind of with the guys at tower. I asked him over a cup of coffee, he said they curved the hunch up to make it easier for the larger guys.. $\endgroup$ – kamran May 6 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Airnav says "RWY 04 FINAL 2,300 FT STEEP 2.1% DOWNSLOPE; RWY 22 UPSLOPE PREFERRED LANDING." and "PILOTS CANNOT SEE ACFT ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF RWY DUE TO GRADIENT, MUST ANNC TAKING ACT RWY ON UNICOM PRIOR TO DEP". Which parts did you check? $\endgroup$ – fooot May 6 at 19:28

FAR 91.103 says (emphasis mine):

§ 91.103 Preflight action. Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include -

(b) For any flight, runway lengths at airports of intended use, and the following takeoff and landing distance information:

(2) For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, other reliable information appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature.

The most "reliable" place to find this information is the FAA Chart Supplement, which says this for KAVX (emphasis mine):

Rwy 04 final 2,300´ steep 2.1% downslope, Rwy 22 upslope preferred ldg. Pilots cannot see acft on opposite ends of rwy due to gradient, must announce taking acft rwy on unicom prior to dep.

Any time you see mention of runway slope, you should be aware that something strange (and likely dangerous) is going on there. Ditto for the cliffs on the diagram, which you are expected to know would create a downdraft on short final.

Since you were legally required to become familiar with this information when you planned a flight there, no additional notice (such as signs or NOTAMs) was required.

If there had been changes to the airport not yet in the CS, there would be NOTAMs for the airport until the next update cycle--and you would be responsible for knowing those as well. However, with the airport being closed five months for construction in this case, they had plenty of time to get the CS updated before it reopened.

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    $\begingroup$ I don’t think that the Chart Supplement for Catalina has been updated since the resurfacing because it still states that the “surface is rough with potholes and soft spots”. The repair work may have changed the slope a bit and taken out some of the hump, but I haven’t seen anything about that yet. $\endgroup$ – JScarry May 7 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry, yes it is not updated in charts or supplement. I felt responsible to give heads up. $\endgroup$ – kamran May 8 at 21:51

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