|Niceville company paves new ground
By Tom McLaughlin
...There are three givens in life; death, taxes, and innovations in asphalt production
being viewed with skepticism.
...So it has been for AVCON Inc., a Niceville-based company that has rolled out an
asphalt its employees refer to as P-601.
...In test after test, the new type of pavement has proven stronger, more durable and
more fuel resistant than pavement mixtures that have come before it, yet company
regional manager Lee Lewis said potential clients still look warily at P-601.
...“Everyone’s a little nervous about trying something new in the business until its
proven,” Lewis said. The problem with that is that proven in this industry takes years,
...Dr. Bob Boyer of Lynn Haven, Fla., is the engineering genius behind perfecting the
P-601 marketed by AVCON. It made its big splash locally in 2010-11 when the
Okaloosa County Airports Department agreed to allow the company to use its
innovative product on a project to expand hangar aprons at the BAE Systems
operation on Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview.
...Lewis recalled county officials saying “we don’t mind being on the cutting edge …
don’t let us down.”
...Bureaucrats in Tallahassee were harder to sell, but were swayed when Boyer,
much respected with 50 years in the field of asphalt engineering, stood after
someone opined that P-601 might make a fantastic demonstration project
...“This is not a demonstration, this is the future of airport pavement,” Boyer said.
...“Not another word was spoken,” Lewis remembered.
...“In your lifetime there are moments you savor,” Boyer himself recalled with a
chuckle. “That was one of them.”
...After long discussion, Lewis decided to offer P-601 as a product that would not only
meet, but exceed, federal standards for fuel resistant hot mix asphalt pavement. It
seemed a risky move, but with Boyer’s backing, no one blinked at the bold request,
...The year after the work was initiated at Bob Sikes Airport, Okaloosa County was
rewarded for its faith in AVCON when it received the American Association of Airport
Executives General Aviation Project of the Year award.
...P-601 improves upon its asphalt predecessors by offering a stronger surface for
extremely heavy loads, such as commercial jetliners, to rest upon. It was originally
designed as a “rut resistant” pavement, Boyer said, and has been put down in the
area of White Point Road in Okaloosa County’s Bluewater Bay, where heavy trucks
had scarred a less hardy asphalt surface.
...After completing its work at Bob Sikes Airport, AVCON used the specs from that job
to apply to the FAA for approval of its pavement product as a new federal standard.
In what was considered nearly a speed record for review time the FAA approved that
application last July.
...The feds were “intrigued by the fuel resistant qualities” of P-601, Lewis said,
making it an ideal asphalt for use in areas where planes are parked.
...The aggregate is created using rocks smaller than those found in more traditional
asphalts, this decreases the size and number of air voids and helps build a more
cohesive product. P-601 also employs PG82-22, a “binder” made with a highly
advanced polymer that adds strength and increases durability of the asphalt, Lewis
...Engineers have been working for years to create heat resistant asphalts like P-
601, with a business in Norway credited as the pioneer, Lewis said. What set the
AVCON product apart, he said, was Boyer’s development and use of PG82-22.
...Yet when AVCON went to the FAA to apply for its federal standard status, the
company sought no proprietary rights to the asphalt product. Doubtless, that selfless
gesture helped speed up the application process, but Lewis said it was mostly done
as a quiet way of honoring Boyer.
...“Dr. Boyer was so eager to get it out there,” Lewis said. “He’s kind of retiring and
this is a legacy to him. He wanted to see this in practice before he leaves.”
...P-601 costs about 20-25 percent more to use than other asphalts, Lewis said, but it’
s also about half the price of concrete, the material most large airports use to surface
their runway areas.
...There are markets available to AVCON though, including Eglin Air Force Base,
Lewis said. “We’ve had a sit down with Eglin and they are very interested in this,” he
said. “There’s no doubt in my mind once they understand it better, they’ll be using it.
When they get the funds and when they get the confidence.”
...Eglin’s runways are constructed of asphalt, and due to the amount of activity they
get, need to be stripped down and resurfaced every 10 to 12 years, Lewis said.
...“That’s hard to do without impacting operations in some way,” he said.
...Lewis said his company has received assurances that if it can guarantee a life time
of 15 to 16 years for the life of Eglin’s runways “they’re all in and will be happy to pay
the extra money.”
...AVCON has already done work at the Northwest Florida Beaches International
Airport in Panama City. It has paved areas where the biggest planes, everything from
737s to 767s, park, Lewis said. Airport officials have gained confidence in the P-601
asphalt as more capable of bearing the weight of the commercial airliners.
...The Panama City project was big for AVCON, marking the first time the FAA foot
the bill for P-601.
...Miami-Dade County Airport officials have also made inquiries about P-601, Lewis
said, and it is one of the few large commercial airports that has relied on asphalt
runways over the years.
...Current negotiations revolve around putting AVCON asphalt down on some smaller
airports associated with Miami-Dade to see how it performs, Lewis said. The airport’s
representatives “eyes lit up” when discussions came to the increased durability Miami
could expect to see if it put down P-601.
...“They want to put down a test section and we are confident when it succeeds they
will put our product down on most runways.”
...Even with all the attention being paid to AVCON since the introduction of P-601,
Lewis said the company is still dogged by customer wariness and hasn’t seen a true
boom in product purchases. Boyer said he anticipates eventually word of mouth will
lead to big things for AVCON.
...“Every place it’s put down everyone is infatuated with it,” he said.
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