Sunday, January 01, 2017

Crumbling runway repaired on Air Force auxiliary airfield near Orangeburg

Charleston Air Force Base crewmen now have a safer place to train in Orangeburg County.

Work crews recently repaired the deteriorating, 3,500-foot runway at the North Auxiliary Airfield, a flight training facility often used by Joint Base Charleston airmen.

The crumbling pavement, originally constructed of asphalt, created an increased risk of foreign objects damaging airplanes and equipment.

Workmen repurposed about 21,000 tons of asphalt from the old runway as the foundation below the new concrete.

"Concrete is much stronger and will provide an improved platform for the C-17s to train on," said Rob Crossland, a pavements engineer with the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

He said over time the two layers of asphalt separated on the landing zone and deteriorated to the point they posed a risk to aircraft.

"What's crucial about Northfield is we train there every day and night," said Nathaniel Watts, airfield manager with the 437th Operations Support Squadron. "Northfield is strictly for training. We drop cargo and have a landing zone to simulate being down range."

The airfield's runway, much shorter than the one at Charleston International Airport where the squadron's C-17 cargo fleet is based, helps to train pilots to land in austere locations with unfinished or shorter airstrips.

Assault landings require aircraft to touch down on a runway within 500 feet and come to a complete stop on the remaining 3,000 feet. The purpose is to land in a small zone quickly.

"Imagine we are in a war zone somewhere, and there are limited resources available to build a runway," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Caleb Morris, a pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron. "Say the Army needs troops, equipment or a tank immediately and in a very small space. They can give us a call here at Charleston."

He added, "In the real world we want to have the skills and the confidence to land the aircraft, with any cargo, in a very small, precise space. That is why we practice."

The Air Force can simulate similar training on a full-size runway by marking the abridged distance with chalk, but Morris said it's not the same as using a 3,500-foot runway.

The construction project included 66,000 linear feet of wire, a new runway lighting system and more than 36,000 square yards of asphalt shoulder to the landing zone. The repair project included the 628th Contracting Squadron and the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron.

"This runway is vital to our training, and we're excited to have our assault strip fully operational again," said U.S. Air Force Col. Jimmy Canlas, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "The assets here at North Auxiliary Airfield are an essential part of keeping our air crews ready to provide safe, precise and reliable rapid global mobility in a moment's notice."

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