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
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
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
"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
"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