How common is it for people to be able to keep their grass runways usable in winter?
Today I took off from a grass runway ... and landed on a different grass runway ... but was unable to visit the airfield I wanted to because their grass runways were waterlogged and there was too much crosswind for me on their one tarmac runway.
Is the waterlogging a matter of luck, in terms of the ground on which they're built, or is it a matter of a small amount of attention to keep them usable, or is it a matter of vast expense to keep them usable?
It's all down to the position and soil type that controls whether a grass runway is useable in winter.
We spent thousands on drainage and looking after the runway throughout the year, but no matter what, it always became a quagmire. Eventually we gave up and put down a tarmac strip and crossovers. Now we can operate throughout the year.
If you are on top of a hill and have chalky, well drained soil, then you have a chance of keeping the runway useable, but even then it is a battle. If you are at low flat levels with clay soil, then you are stuffed already and you'll just end up wrecking the grass for the summer if carry on by rutting the surface badly and turning it into a mud pit.
One final tip, when the ground is drying out during spring, get the roller onto it before it hardens totally, that way you can get the worst ruts out of the ground before they are set like concrete that are virtually impossible to flatten properly.
I probably fly from the only airstrip where, on occasion it's impossible to drive to, but always remains useable no matter what. It's a hilltop site and the water just drains off immediately. the only problem is, once you've taken off at this time of year there is nowhere to go as every other strip in the area is waterlogged!
It's all about location, location, location as the others have said.
So far, touch wood, in 7 years of operating out of White Waltham I have never known the grass runways to be closed.
I believe that during the war when the airfield was a base for the ATA a metal grid was laid beneath the grass to enable heavy bombers to be flown from there and this helps with stopping the grass from becoming too boggy.
I'm no geologist/gardener but I imagine that 80% of the issue is in ground type.
Redhill, which is about 4mi from where I live, is on clay. Thick, sticky, London clay. Holds water really well for growing things. Hold water really well for keeping runways closed.
If you had grass strips on a sandy soil type then I imagine that you'd only need a few hours between showers to allow drainage to occur.
The drainage scheme at Redhill was expensive, time consuming (and has left a couple of ridges that you don't want to hit on touchdown!) but has made an enormous difference to the performance of the ground after rain. Sadly, it means that we now only need a WEEK of dry rather than a MONTH after each burst of the wet stuff!
Our share aircraft (before my time in the group) used to be based at Netherthorpe. Wonderful, friendly little place. But often waterlogged, so much so that the group decided to move 15 miles to Gamston, where the a/c is hangared and based on a nice long tarmac runway.
Before I joined the Gamston group I used to rent from Netherthorpe. Last winter I had ten consecutive cancellations, half due to the weather on the day and the other half due to waterlogged runways on otherwise perfect flying days.
There is also a system called 'Perfo' which is like a rubber mat layed over the grass and then rolled in, I think it would be quite expensive to do a whole runway, but it has been done. It can be found on the web with a quick search. I think the UK stockist is S2TAviation or something similar.