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Mississippi's Governor, Phil Bryant, pauses during his address at the Columbus Air Force Base Runway Ribbon Cutting ceremony Sept. 6 to congratulate Col. Jim Sears, 14th Flying Training Wing commander and the men and women of Columbus AFB team for their accomplishments throughout the six-month runway re-construction project. In addition, Mississippi State Senator Roger Wicker and Congressman Alan Nunnelee were in attendance and applauded the construction project and the work of the 14th FTW in maintaining their flying capability. The pilot training wing safely continued its mission despite the significant loss of capability. A Mississippi small business, Babcock Construction Company, executed the largest runway construction project in eight years in Air Education and Training Command, on-time and under-budget. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Stephanie Englar)
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Columbus runway opens on-time and under-budget

Posted 9/6/2013   Updated 9/10/2013 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Cory Concha
14th Student Squadron

9/6/2013 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Columbus Air Force Base's center runway opened today, Sept. 6, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony which concluded the six-month modernization and reconstruction efforts to replace the nearly 60-year old surface. The repairs, which began in March of this year, improve and support the pilot training program with a larger third runway. The runway brings new technology and boasts the success of a highly effective Columbus AFB team responsible for ensuring the on-time and under-budget undertaking.

"I'd like to congratulate our operators, engineers, contracting and airfield communications specialists for developing a tremendous plan and then executing it with great precision as we safely continued our mission of producing pilots while also completing the AF's largest FY12 Airfield Focus Fund project on-time and under-budget." said Col. Jim Sears, 14th Flying Training Wing Commander.

On-time completion of the project is "a complete success" according to John Trumm, 14th Civil Engineer Squadron project manager for the reconstruction. Trumm notes that more than 40 rain-days effectively removed a month of work, but the project was still completed on time.

To minimize the effects of the runway closure and construction on the pilot training mission, the Golden Triangle Regional Airport allowed Columbus AFB planes and crews to operate out of their airport. Having over a dozen T-1A aircraft off the ramp at Columbus AFB and on the ramp of the local civil airport helped relieve the congestion in the pattern of runway 31R/13L, which was used by both T-38s and T-1s.

Using the local airport was just one example of the innovation the Columbus AFB team came up with in order to keep the training sorties on track.

The center runway was originally built in order to support the Strategic Air Command. This original mission required the 12,000-foot long, 300-foot wide runway to be robust in both absorbing damage from large aircraft loads and handling Mississippi's humid climate.

The new runway is 10-inch thick concrete with a newly developed aggregate base layer to provide additional support and strength and includes new 50-foot wide asphalt shoulders. The asphalt section of the runway had less than 20 percent of its design life remaining, making reconstruction necessary.

In order to complete the repairs, almost 10,000 semi-truck loads of aggregate materials and 64,765 cubic yards of new concrete were placed, often during 24-hour operations.

The new features of the runway's construction go hand-in-hand with updates to the runway's instrument landing systems as well.

The center runway will implement a new Instrument Landing System (ILS) which replaces outdated technology by allowing for a streamlined process for calibrating, regulating, and repairing the system, according to Master Sgt. Sean Wallace, 14th Communications Squadron, Non-Commissioned Officer-In-Charge of Airfield Systems at Columbus AFB.

Wallace was part of the initial test bed for the new system which began development in 2005. This remote maintenance concept reduces time and resources necessary to solve basic problems with the system. A hub at Tinker AFB, Okla. remotely calibrates and troubleshoots the approach-assistance system.

"After seeing the process at work for ten years, it's finally nice to see it come to fruition," said Wallace. "It's great to see our navigational age moving along with the technological age."

Runway operations were reduced Sept. 4 and 5 during the extensive Federal Aviation Administration Flight Check of the ILS. The tests ensure the ILS is properly calibrated for use, serving as the last step before resuming full operations.

Having the ILS flight checked is the last step to returning Columbus AFB's primary instrument runway to full operational status," said Lt. Col. Brian Murphy, 14th Operations Support Squadron Commander. "Columbus AFB has not had a precision approach since the runway was closed March 1; this certification brings the airfield back to full operational capacity."

The new ILS is being implemented throughout the entire Air Force, but Columbus AFB is one of the first handful of bases to receive the new system, putting it at the forefront of Air Force technology while also helping reduce resource requirements.

The runway's completion highlights the efficiency of Columbus AFB's various sections in a multi-faceted approach.

"Our runway reconstruction team demonstrated the highest standards for what it means to be an Airman," said Sears. "They truly demonstrated what it means to be the premier pilot training wing and community developing the world's best Airmen."

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