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Editoriali

 

6/2009

 

7. Bumpy landings will soon be a thing of the past
Trisha Gallaway, AMCNS
 


CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. After Nov. 5 bumpy landings on runway 03/21 here will be nothing but a distant memory.
April 9 marked the beginning of a 210-day, $30 million project to rebuild runway 03/21, which had deteriorated to the point where foreign object damage potential was becoming a safety concern for base leadership.
Following a pavement condition survey done by the 437th Civil Engineer Squadron, it was discovered the base's secondary runway was reaching the end of its useful life, so much that runway 03/21 had a load restriction on it, said Todd Martin, a 437 CES base engineer.
"The reconstruction will completely replace the deteriorating asphalt runway with a stronger and more durable concrete-paved runway," said Robert Crossland, base pavements engineer with the 437 CES. "Safety will also be improved through construction by bringing the runway up to the latest Air Force standards."
Once construction is complete, runway 03/21 will have paved asphalt overruns, and 25-foot wide asphalt-paved shoulders, both of which the runway currently lacks. The runway will also receive new edge lighting, distance remaining markers and runway end indicator lights on both ends.
Base officials said the runway was beginning to resemble peanut brittle.
"When the runway was designed back in the late '60s, they didn't anticipate the heavy aircraft we have or the heavy operations tempo we have now," said Mr. Martin.
The last major work done on Charleston AFB runways was in 1968.
"Typically, a runway is designed to last approximately 20 to 30 years," said Mr. Crossland. "The durability of a runway is directly related to the amount, types and weight of the aircraft that use the runway."
With 41 years in between the last major work done and the complete rebuild of the runway, it is a testament to our maintenance shops keeping up on the smaller repairs, said Mr. Martin.
"Without maintenance, we would have been in trouble a long time ago," said Mr. Crossland. "It requires a lot of maintenance once it gets to the point that runway 03/21 was at."
Charleston AFB is not the only runway user who is being affected by the work.
With construction scheduled to last until November, that meant having to reroute the taxiways for the commercial airliners.
"Because some of the crossings are closed, the commercial traffic is being redirected to the military side of the ramp," Mr. Crossland said. "It's getting real congested out there and will be for the duration of this project."
According to Mr. Martin, base operations worked closely with the Charleston County Aviation Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration tower to develop procedures for the commercial airliners to taxi on the military taxiways.
We just have to make sure we are all on the same page of music, said Capt. Marquette Moore, airfield operations flight commander with the 437th Operations Support Squadron.
While Runway 03/21 isn't Charleston AFBs main runway, it is used to launch 30 to 35 percent of all air traffic in and out of the area, Mr. Crossland said.
"Once the runway is rebuilt, we can use it for all aircraft operations," said Captain Moore. "Because of the previous condition, most heavy aircraft operations were limited to the long runway, 15/33."
Being able to take in larger and heavier aircraft on runway 03/21 will be key when work, scheduled for Fiscal Year 2012, begins on runway 15/33, Charleston AFB's main runway.
"The main runway is showing some of those same signs as the secondary runway, however we don't have the load restriction," said Mr. Martin.
Mr. Crossland is finishing up the design for the main runway right now, he said.
"When the main runway is down for repairs, runway 03/21 has to be capable of launching and receiving all air traffic in and out of Charleston AFB," said Mr. Crossland. "This runway enables Charleston the luxury of not having to close, divert inbound aircraft or cancel essential missions because the main runway is unusable.
"Since Charleston AFB is a joint-use airfield, the base and the local community will greatly benefit from improved safety provided by the reconstruction."